Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #26: Callisto

The Xena Scrolls

By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #26: Callisto

October, 48 B.C.

I sing of the woes of Callisto. A woman who was struck down by the cycle of violence. Her life began in a village called Syra located somewhere between Corinth and Amphipolis. One day her village was attacked by a well-known warrior princess. On that day many perished in the flames. There was no discrimination for women and their children this time. The flames swept through the village of Syra with a vengeance for blood. It was the vengeance of a warrior princess whose village had also suffered the fate of blood and vengeance years before. It was said that there were only a handful of survivors from that attack and a young fair-haired girl named Callisto had been one of them.

Callisto had lost her entire family to this cycle of hatred. At first she mourned for her sister, father, and mother, but the mourning did not last for it was replaced with a lust for blood. This lust for blood consumed Callisto’s tattered heart and battered soul. Her mind soon raced into a psychotic rage as the years went by she plotted her vengeance. On a day not long after the salvation of the warrior princess Callisto had completed her plan of vengeance. She knew exactly how she would get to Xena and so it began with one village and then another. Callisto and her newly acquired following of warriors descended upon villages destroying them and each time leaving few survivors. But for those who did survive she always had a message for them. “Tell them I am Xena warrior princess.” And with that she would leave them with an evil laughter to remember her by.

Callisto’s wrath lasted for many seasons with little notice until one day a young farmer named Melos was traveling to his home. Melos caught sight of an old woman from his village. She was lying on the road helpless barely clinging to life. When Melos approached her she sung the tale of Xena the warrior princess and of what she had done to her and their village. Melos was alarmed knowing that his wife and child were there in the village. The old woman told him that everything was in ruin and that it was not likely he would find anyone left alive. This messenger of death and destruction took her last breath and died in Melos’s arms.

A few days later the farmer Melos sat in a tavern a marathon from his home drowning his sorrows. Sitting next to him was a warrior woman in leather with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She looked over to him noticing his despair. It was familiar to her and she offered him her drink out of kindness and sympathy for him. He accepted it with gratitude and then he introduced himself. He held out his hand as the kind stranger introduced herself as Xena. Suddenly Melos stumbled to his feet with rage for this was the woman whom he was told had killed his wife and son. She was the bringer of death and destruction. Xena the warrior princess had taken away his entire life.

As Melos prepared to take his own blood vengeance against Xena he was no match for this strong stealthful woman. He lunged forward toward Xena yet she dropped him to the ground in an instant. Then the warrior princess drew her sword and held it threatening her attacker by the end of her blade. Melos was certain that this Xena was the one that had taken his family from him. Xena couldn’t believe what she was hearing for she had given up the business of blood vengeance a long time before. Not only that, but Xena was certain that these stories were false and impossible for she had never been so dark as to kill women and children. She had to find out more about this. Xena had to know who was disguising themselves as the bringer of death and destruction. It was told that every traveler from the tavern to Corinth had a tale of destruction caused by none other than the warrior princess herself. And as Xena and her companion left the tavern Melos promised that he would come after Xena to receive his vengeance.

On the path to Corinth Xena and her companion ran into a small group of battered villagers. They all had the same look as did Melos. They were torn, battered, and poisoned with hatred. All of them were full of fear. Xena explained to the bard that it was that fear that she had once craved during her days as an evil warlord. That fear commanded a certain respect. But now it was different of the warrior princess. She declared that she and the bard would continue on traveling toward Corinth until they were able to find out who was truly behind all of the needless killing.

Yet as Xena and Gabrielle waded through the group of fearful commoners there was one strangely dressed man with a strainer for a chest plate and a goofy looking helmet. He shouted out an inquiry demanding to know if the woman approaching him was indeed the warrior princess. Xena answered with disgust in her voice feeling very annoyed by his question. After she answered he introduced himself as Joxer the Mighty. He said that he was a warrior and desired to join Xena’s army. He was certain to be able to offer his services to the blood lusting warrior woman. This peculiar man did not act like a warrior. He claimed to have a passion for blood, but it was obvious that he had never killed anyone before. The bard could read him very well and she let him know that she did not take him seriously. This bumbling idiot was offended and declared that he had not even been addressing the bard, but Gabrielle ignored his insulting remarks. As Xena tried to ignore this bumbling idiot he did not give up trying to convince her. The more bloody his words became the more irritating to the warrior princess. He told her that had a nickname of bloody Joxer, and that he had once bathed in a pool of blood. In fact, he was so certain that he loved blood so much that he even went as far as to say that he suffered from depression if he did not draw blood regularly. He was definitely not convincing and sounded more like a lost child than a true warrior. Finally the warrior princess had enough of the antics of the idiot. She delivered a blow to his nose rejecting his pleas to serve her reign of terror. Then she warned him that if he did not stop his lusting for blood that she would show him the reality of blood lust.

As he sat up from his place upon the ground he was disappointed that Xena had rejected his offer to join her legions. For Xena things were getting serious because now strangers were looking for her just to be a part of all of the hatred. Xena and Gabrielle continued on toward Corinth and as they traveled Melos was not far behind. In fact, even Argo could feel his presence as she stirred with a warning to the warrior princess of the enemy within the brush. Once again he tried to get his vengeance on Xena as he leapt from above within a tree down onto the warrior princess, but a farmer could not defeat the warrior princess in battle. She acted to his advance and flipped him over her shoulder down onto the bottom of the hill. Then she took a rope and tied his hands. The warrior princess led the vengeful farmer toward the tree he had scouted her from and tied him to its trunk. Gabrielle could not help, but feel sorrow for a good man such as Melos. In her heart the bard knew that he was truly a good man, but this cycle of violence seemed never-ending. It was infectious like a disease and took the goodness away from the good.

This cycle had begun with Cortese when he and his army had killed Xena’s brother Lyceus. Then Xena’s heart had been infected with this vengeful hatred which had led her to kill, and now another dark force had come forth killing Melos’s wife and six-year-old son. Gabrielle tried to comfort Melos and to dissolve his hatred as she left him a bed roll for later. Then she bade the good farmer farewell hoping that he would soon be able to defeat the darkness and come to his senses. Yet as Xena and Gabrielle left him behind he swore to get his vengeance on the warrior princess. It was clear what had to be done. This cycle of violence had to stop. Xena blamed herself for it, but it began long before Xena’s own village of Amphipolis was ever attacked.

Soon Xena and Gabrielle arrived in a village along the road to Corinth that was suffering the wrath of hatred. At the entrance were many dead villagers tied to crosses on display for all to see. The smell of death was evident yet there were still many running about the streets screaming in agony for their lives to be spared as Callisto the fair-haired warrior woman reigned within her dark vengeance. The warrior princess charged into battle upon Argo as Gabrielle ran onto the scene with staff in hand. Xena caught sight of three warriors beating an innocent smith as he was unable to defend himself. The warrior princess could take no more of this violence. She quickly pulled out her chackram and threw it in the direction of the three attackers. It bounced off the three heads of the evil warriors and rounded the village square. Just as the chackram was about to round the corner back toward its commander it was snatched by the fair-haired warlord. Callisto appeared before Xena as if expecting her arrival. A sly smile spread across her face as she stood across the village looking Xena dead in the eye. She held Xena’s chackram within her hand triumphantly urging the warrior princess onto battle.

And so the face off began. Callisto taunted Xena into a jousting combat to regain possession of her chackram. Callisto drew her sword as did Xena. As they went for their first pass at one another the fair-haired Callisto screamed with a terrible vengeance as she charged forward upon her horse. Xena responded with a warrior grumble upon her horse. Their charge ended in a stalemate to the dismay of Xena’s new rival. Neither woman took the advantage. Upon their second pass Callisto screamed with vengeance again and with even more determination. Gabrielle had never seen a warlord with the kind of passion that the warrior princess had fought with yet Callisto had it within. They clashed swords, but Callisto won the second pass for she had gotten a clean shot on the warrior princess.

As Xena turned Argo about to face Callisto again she noticed the wound sustained within her left shoulder. Then she looked out across the field at her tough enemy realizing this would not be a simple match up. Callisto found herself to be delighted that she had gotten the upper hand within this battle as she declared with confidence that she was just as good as the infamous warrior princess. And it was true. Callisto was skilled for Gabrielle had only seen the warrior princess tame the chackram. And now the fair-haired Callisto had proven her skill. Then Callisto went onto declare that it was inevitable for Xena the warrior princess had indeed created her. The warrior princess became angry unable to believe that she could have created such a monstrous creature. And so they went for a third pass and this time Xena clashed swords with Callisto only to disarm her.

As the warrior princess rounded her horse for a fourth pass she slid her sword back into its place upon her back. Then she inferred that it was Callisto that had shot her with the poison dart that had nearly taken the life of the warrior princess weeks before. Callisto responded gleefully that Xena was indeed correct for what better way would there be for her to remove the real warrior princess only to recreate her darkness. The fair-haired warrior woman had an agenda which included reviving the evil warrior princess’s reputation for killing women and children. This accusation angered Xena for she had never been guilty of intentionally taking the lives of women and children. Even in her days of darkness Xena’s warrior code held integrity. Then Callisto screamed again chagrin forward as each warrior woman took a staff and prepared to make a fourth pass at one another. The two women were truly an equal match as they knocked one another from their horses. And amazingly both landed upon their feet as they flipped backwards off of their horses. It was as if looking into a live mirror. One had dark hair, the other light, one had dark eyes, the other light, and one was of the darkness while the other of goodness. But before the duel was to continue Xena asked what Callisto meant when she had declared that Xena had created her. Callisto responded asked Xena if she remembered Syra. Suddenly the warrior princess’s eyes told of a buried darkness within. It was a look of alarm and of concern at the same time. Yet before the warrior princess could dissolve this out of control nemesis Callisto screamed and charge forward with her staff as Xena blocked the advance. Then the fair-haired warrior woman flipped over the warrior princess using her staff and onto her horse. Callisto rode away from battle screaming violently all the way out of the village leaving the warrior princess stunned and visibly upset.

But before the warrior princess had time to think about her past mistakes in battles against the innocent she heard the battle between Gabrielle and another of Callisto’s men behind her. Gabrielle struggled against this skilled warrior of Callisto’s army. He was much stronger and well-trained. The bard was having great difficulty in battling against him despite her training from the warrior princess. Xena turned to see that her friend had been disarmed and was about to become a victim of this cycle of violence as the warrior lifted his weapon to kill. She charged forth with the staff and disarmed him quickly. Gabrielle acted rolling out-of-the-way as Xena disarmed him and then put her pinch upon his neck. The bard watched as the warrior princess demanded information from the victim. He was reluctant to give any information until Xena spoke of his impending death if he did not speak. He revealed to Xena after several moments Callisto’s name and identity. Xena wanted to know more about her relation to Syra. He told of how Callisto had lost her family to Xena’s army. The warrior princess was heart-broken for she was responsible for the suffering of these people within the village now despite her struggle against the darkness that she had seemingly created.

Then the warrior princess released her emotion once more and focused again asking him what Callisto wanted from her. His answer was simple. Callisto wanted to ruin Xena’s good reputation and then she wanted to kill the warrior princess after all else was destroyed. The warrior princess realized that she must act quickly to stop this dark nemesis for it was clearly out of control. And even if she did succeed at killing the warrior princess her vengeance would never end. Xena realized that she must be the one to seek out and destroy Callisto before Callisto could succeed with her vengeance. The warrior princess demanded to know where Callisto would be striking next. She was told of the sacrifice at Delphi that would occur on the following day. Callisto was after the oracle. Xena then gave the Callisto’s warrior a final message. She declared that she would destroy Callisto before Callisto would succeed at destroying the warrior princess. Suddenly Xena released her victim from the jaws of death and knocked him unconscious.

The bard watched the warrior princess walk away with a look of devastation and of guilt. It had been a long time since the bard had seen the warrior princess suffering with so much guilt and so much shame. And then as the chaos continued to surround them Melos approached Xena apologizing for his misjudgment of her. Yet the warrior princess was in no mood to talk to vengeful farmers. She warned him of her anger within and he tried desperately to ease her pain within. He explained that he had seen all that had transpired between the warrior princess and Callisto. Melos was determined to help Xena bring Callisto down. He was still ready for vengeance, but it was now redirected at the true enemy. Yet the warrior princess was certain that vengeance was not the answer for it had been vengeance that had tainted Callisto to become the ultimate darkness. Instead the warrior princess declared that she could at least keep Melos from getting himself killed for she was certain that Callisto would not be as forgiving of him as she had been.

That night Gabrielle was determined to try to help Xena dissolved Melos’s vengeance. She sat down next to Melos who was in the depths of his hatred. Gabrielle asked him softly when he had last slept and gotten a good night’s rest. His answer was the one that the bard dreaded most. He declared that he had not slept since the day he had heard of his son’s death and seen it with his own eyes. Gabrielle tried desperately to get him to let go of the vengeance for just one moment or two so that maybe he could lie down and drift off to sleep. Yet Melos declared that Gabrielle could not understand his pain. She could not understand his loss or his anger. He was certain that Callisto’s blood would allow him to face and release his hatred and his pain within. Melos was certain that if Gabrielle had lost someone she loved in the same way that she would feel the same drive and resolution through blood. Yet Gabrielle was not so certain that she would feel that way. She was against violence and she wanted nothing more than to be the champion of stopping it alongside the warrior princess.

Finally the bard gave up trying to ease Melos’s rage and to get though all of his hatred. Instead she felt that maybe she could help heal Xena’s heart of its heavy guilt for having been responsible for the loss of Callisto’s family so long ago. The bard sat down by the fire next to the warrior princess whose heart was in mourning for Callisto’s soul. It was clear to the bard that the warrior princess wanted to be able to help Callisto let go of it all the way that she had been able to do. Xena could relate to Callisto in a way that no one else could. Gabrielle invited the warrior princess to talk about her experiences and share her pain of Syra. The warrior princess was very open unlike in the past for this time she needed the inner strength that the bard seemingly had naturally. She began the story trying to reason and explain it all. The warrior princess spoke of the one time that her army had been responsible for the deaths of women and children. It had been in Syra. They had set fire to the houses, but she was uncertain if it all had been an accident or if her men had truly been behind the fires. Despite it being just another village to conquer they were taken by surprise when the winds began to pick up and blow the fires out of control. The flames had swept through Syra without remorse and they had claimed the lives of innocent women and children. Xena had said that there were only a few known survivors and today she had met one of them face to face. Her past had stared her dead in the eye. It had come back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined it to. It was one of the first times that Gabrielle had seen the warrior princess break down and cry as a tear dropped from her eye.

The bard found herself beginning to understand it all. This terrible cycle of violence and of hatred. She realized that Callisto had truly fallen into its wrath as Melos had. Yet Xena did not blame Callisto for her actions. Gabrielle could not allow the same reprieve for Callisto’s actions for she had known the warrior princess’s past. Xena too had been infected with the violence within her own village and despite it all the warrior princess had made the choice to turn it all around for herself. Yet Xena proclaimed that she was only lucky in having been able to be rescued from the depths of this cycle. Gabrielle was confident in her friend’s ability to do good and to be good. She could not accept the excuses that Xena tried to allow Callisto. Gabrielle was certain that Callisto must be taken by justice for her crimes against humanity. The bard argued that it was because of people like Callisto that made good people like Melos turn into vicious blood thirsty killers.

Gabrielle wanted desperately to erase Xena’s guilt for Callisto’s actions. But the warrior princess was still not certain that Gabrielle was right. She declared that she might find herself one day falling back into the cycle of violence if something were to ever happen to her mother, Hercules or even to Gabrielle. The bard refused to allow Xena that vengeance. Gabrielle pushed for Xena to promise her that she would never take vengeance on behalf of Gabrielle. The bard could not hold onto her own hope for the world if Xena were to fall into violence in her absence. To Gabrielle no death was worth a vengeance like that of Callisto or of Melos. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to promise never to turn to the cycle of violence again. Xena was still unable to make that promise to the bard. Gabrielle continued to insist that the answer was never through blood, but through love and forgiveness that would allow the violence to end. Then the warrior princess held the bard tightly and hugged her. She pleaded with her loyal friend to never change. Xena’s only strength was the bard. Xena needed her friend now more than ever. It was the light of the innocent bard that allowed Xena to carry on. The warrior princess feared her heart would grow dark without Gabrielle. Yet Gabrielle had a strong faith in her friend’s inner light. She again demanded a promise from the warrior princess that she would never go down the path of vengeance again. The warrior princess sensed the bard’s fears within and promised the bard that she would be strong.

Gabrielle continued to hold Xena for she could not bare the thought of evil claiming Xena’s soul again. She began to stroke Xena’s hair trying to settle down the demons which she could feel wrestling within the warrior princess. Yet Xena tried to close her feelings off tightly and away from the bard once more. She tried to urge the bard to leave her within her despair, but Gabrielle would not leave Xena. And so the night ended with two friends trying to be strong for one another as they prepared for their next battle against Callisto at Delphi.

As soon as the sun rose Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, and Melos were on their way to Delphi. Upon their arrival Xena suggested that they split up to find Callisto more quickly. Gabrielle took Argo, and Xena went into the temple with Melos. Gabrielle scouted the village streets of Delphi alongside Xena’s horse and found herself approached from behind. Someone had grabbed a net attempting to capture the bard, but she escaped quite easily. Suddenly there he was. He called himself Joxer a warrior, but a warrior like no other. So inept, so clumsy, and no more clever than a bumbling idiot. He insisted upon battling against the bard. Yet the bard could see that he was not a true warrior. He had little skill, but plenty of will. His failure at capturing the bard within his net led to him drawing his goofy looking sword. The blade wide and he could barely control it. Gabrielle could not handle a sword, but after seeing this Joxer try to handle his over-sized blade it was clear that he was a small threat.

In fact this Joxer seemed more annoying than threatening. The bard quickly disarmed him of his blade with a thrust of the staff. He was still very determined as he then grabbed a tiny dagger from within the mess of his lame uniform threatening to take the bard down. His anger was easily defeated as the bard disarmed him of his tiny dagger and knocked his toes with her staff. His eyes rolled back into his head in pain as he hopped around on his good foot. The bard prepared for his response. It was a cross-bow which Gabrielle broke with a thrust of the staff across the bow. Suddenly he appeared upset as if he were nothing more than a child who had lost his favorite toy. Then he remembered his challenge and prepared to take the bard down with his bare hands. Of course Gabrielle was ready again for his feeble advance as she knocked him silly with her staff taking his feet from beneath him. The bumbling idiot Joxer fell flat upon his back as his tongue hung out in defeat. He prepared to regain his senses and rise for more punishment, but the bard was becoming quite annoyed by his presence. She had little time for his antics and idiocy as she demanded that he stay down. The bard was busy trying to find Callisto before darkness could kill the oracle. And so Gabrielle left Joxer behind.

As Gabrielle tried to lose the idiot inside of the temple Xena caught sight of a mysteriously cloaked woman. It was Callisto and she had pulled Xena’s chackram hurling it toward the unsuspecting oracle certain to incriminate the warrior princess in cold-blooded murder. There were plenty of witnesses, but Xena would not be defeated. She reached for her dagger and threw it toward the flying disc to deflect its path toward death. The warrior princess was successful as the chackram was tamed by the light and returned to the hand of the warrior princess. Suddenly Callisto realizing defeat fled the temple. The chase led through the back alleys of the village to Callisto’s horse. She jumped upon her horse riding out-of-town as quickly as she could. The fair-haired woman was determined to escape the warrior princess’s justice as Xena jumped upon Argo in pursuit. The chase led to the far reaches of the valley into the desert region ten miles. Callisto was quick and agile, but the warrior princess had the better horse. Argo pushed hard to catch up to the dark nemesis so that Xena could capture Callisto and bring her to justice. Finally Argo did catch up and Xena leapt from Argo onto Callisto’s horse forcing the enemy to the ground. The two warrior women tumbled to the ground down the hill near the water down below.

When they finally stopped rolling Xena regained her balance quickly tying Callisto binding Callisto’s hands. As the warrior princess took control of her accidental creation she put Callisto upon Argo knowing that Argo would not allow Callisto to escape. Callisto tried desperately to kick Argo into action as they made the journey back toward Delphi. Xena began to become angered at Callisto’s abuse of her beloved horse. She warned that she would break Callisto’s ankles if she continued to kick Argo. Callisto resorted to taunting the warrior princess once more knowing that she was defeated for the moment. She mocked Xena for turning toward the light and declared that the warrior princess was only fooling herself if she thought that changing her ways made it simple for those she had wronged to forgive her. The warrior princess was not proud of her past and Callisto’s presence only inflamed the dark memories and the shame.

Gabrielle arrived at Xena’s side to warn her of Melos’s vegeance gone out of control. He had organized a lynch mob for when Callisto returned. It was obvious that she had been convicted before having he fair trial the way Xena had when she had fought the dark hooded Ares. Callisto then asked the warrior princess if she had ever been tried for every crime she had ever committed against humanity. It was obvious to the bard what Callisto was doing. She was playing on the warrior princess’s guilt and placing all of her own guilt upon the shoulders of the warrior princess. Xena was taking it all feeling that she deserved all of it, but Gabrielle argued that Xena could not allow Callisto to place that guilt upon her. Xena was guilty of only what crimes she had committed and not those of the people she had committed them against. Callisto found it amusing that the bard was defending her friend in this way. She began to laugh and then asked Gabrielle if she knew what it was like to wake up every night hearing her mother scream with pain as she was being burned to death. Callisto’s heart and soul were very much scared. For a moment even the bard felt some sympathy as she began to put herself in that place trying desperately to relate and understand.

Gabrielle’s thoughts were interrupted as Xena proposed to Callisto the possibility of allowing her to go free. The bard found herself suddenly aghast that Xena would even fathom the thought of allowing such a killing machine to return to her life of violence. As the two friend began to argue over Callisto’s future Callisto interrupted again and proposed her exact plan. She proclaimed that if Xena were to allow her to go that she would dedicate her entire life to killing everyone and everything Xena loved including her family, friends, reputation, and even her beloved horse Argo. Callisto declared that Xena’s pity would be worse than death for her. She then insisted that Xena carry on with the process of justice for she had indeed created a monster with integrity. Callisto was determined to win Xena’s heart back into darkness no matter what the consequences to herself. It was her passionate hatred that made her heart stale and cold.

Upon arriving back at Delphi Melos was ready with his mob. They were prepared to take Callisto to her justice created by themselves without a trial. But the warrior princess would not allow it. She declared that Callisto would be taken to the village jail and await her fair trial. Callisto seemed to bask in the glory of her success. She had created a darkness so great that hatred was beginning to take control over the goodness which had once existed within the hearts of the villagers at Delphi. Melos led them certain to gain Callisto’s blood no matter what had to be done.

As Xena stood guard Gabrielle found herself confronted by the idiot once again as she watched the mob thirst for blood. He tried to capture her with a rope, but failed as Gabrielle whipped around to face him again. She grabbed his rope and yanked him forth into her fist to the nose. The bard was frustrated with the idiot as she demanded to know what his issue was with trying to capture and defeat her. He declared that Callisto would reward him well for capturing her and trading the bard for Callisto’s release. Yet Gabrielle did not find it to be a very convincing plan she sat him down and slammed a rag down upon his injured nose with frustration. She asked him why he insisted upon following her. He was clearly determined that he was going to be a real warrior and to be well-known by all. Yet he was not at all fierce. He was tame like a lamb, but his heart was definitely that of a lion. Gabrielle laid the truth before him. She explained that he was just not a warrior no matter how much he wanted to be one. He was disappointed for he claimed that his family was a long line of successful warriors. Joxer seemingly didn’t measure up. But that was okay for Gabrielle felt that there were other things that she could urge the kind-hearted idiot to do. She asked him what other interests he had. Joxer replied with zest that he liked to steal. Of course stealing was not at all what the bard had in mind. Instead she suggested fishing. The bard tried to convince Joxer that fishing was just as noble as being a warrior. For a moment it seemed as if maybe she had succeeded for the excitement began to build within his soft brown eyes. Gabrielle began to feel sorry for this mixed up fellow as she held out her hand and introduced herself. He accepted the invitation to friendship only to grab her arm and lock it behind her back at yet another lame capture attempt. The bard’s frustrations boiled over as he took her elbow to his now swollen nose. And then Gabrielle left the idiot to his idiocy feeling that he was a hopeless delusional case.

Yet Xena had problems of her own. As she sat guarding Callisto within the jail Callisto continued to taunt her and to work her conscience. Though Callisto was beyond help she was clever and she knew exactly how to play the warrior princess. She was determined to destroy what goodness lie within Xena’s heart. Xena fought to ignore Callisto’s words, but found it difficult for she still felt guilt within her heart for what had happened. Callisto had not accepted her apology earlier on the journey back toward Delphi. The fair-haired woman would not allow Xena to be forgiven. She continued to torture Xena. Callisto’s vegeance for Xena was strange for despite her hatred and anger she truly admired the darkness of the warrior princess for it had commanded such power. But she condemned the good warrior princess proclaiming that she was too sentimental for her own good. As the warrior princess sat wrestling with her demons and trying to decided if Gabrielle was right or if maybe Callisto could be changed for the better.

And then the mob won out. It hurled a torch of fire into Callisto’s cell hoping to flush her out. Callisto relished in the idea that she could die the same violent death as did her family. She urged Xena to allow her to burn to death for it would be the fitting justice. If that were the fitting justice for Callisto then what would be a fitting justice for a warrior princess. A part of Xena wanted to let it all go within the flames, but she could not. Instead she reached for the keys to the cell releasing Callisto from the wrath of flames. Callisto knew Xena well for she had studied the warrior princess for years. She had escaped her the binds of her metal cuffs and as the warrior princess came to her rescue she fell into Callisto’s trap. Callisto knocked the warrior princess into the fire and then locked her away to burn to death.

Quickly Callisto ran out into the square hissing with vengeance as she screamed and jumped upon her horse once more. As she galloped out-of-town she swiped the unsuspecting bard and rode out-of-town having won this round of the duel. Xena narrowly escaped the flames flipping through the top of the prison ceiling. It was made of only straw which had allowed the burning flames to consume the jail vengefully. As Xena emerged from the jail a distraught Melos began to punish himself for his mistake. He realized that Gabrielle had been right. Forgiveness was the only answer and as Xena jumped upon her horse she reminded Melos that she had made the same mistake which had created Callisto. Then she rode on in the direction that Callisto had disappeared with Gabrielle.

Soon the helpless bard found herself hoisted high above the ground within Callisto’s camp. Callisto was basking within her glory knowing that she was on the verge of Xena’s destruction. Gabrielle was certain to gain the advantage knowing Xena could stand up to the darkness of Callisto. Callisto seemingly did not care if she was defeated in battle against Xena or not. She was certain that either way she would win. If she beat Xena in battle it would mean Xena’s death and if she was killed in a fierce battle by Xena it would allow her to haunt Xena within death for it was certain to unleash the demons within the warrior princess’s heart once more. It seemed that there was no escape for Xena’s heart.

And then the idiot Joxer somehow ended up at Callisto’s camp. He had been found sneaking around within the bushes by Callisto’s men. When he was asked by the blonde woman of his intentions at her camp he was left speechless and unprepared. Then Callisto asked him why he had failed at capturing the girl. He had no excuse only a fumbling of words. Callisto reminded him that it was she who had captured Gabrielle and that he had lost his chance at entry into her army. Joxer tried to declare that he had worked hard at breaking down the bard’s defenses, but Callisto only mocked him by commenting on his swollen nose. Then Callisto declared that there was one more thing he could do to prove his worth to her army. Joxer found himself delighted that Callisto was about to give him another chance to prove himself as a warrior. He was determined to succeed this time.

And so Callisto commanded to have the bard brought down to be killed. She asked Joxer to slice the throat of the irritating blonde from one ear to the other. Joxer reluctantly took the knife. Gabrielle realized that this may be her demise. She prepared for her death as she held her breath facing the determined idiot once more. This time she was unable to defend herself. Joxer realized as he looked into the bard’s eyes that he could not commit such an act. He tried desperately to talk his way out of it. He declared that there should be a better fate for the friend of the warrior princess. Joxer was certain that the warrior princess would be angry to find that the bard had been taken for a possible ransom. Yet Callisto wanted more than money. She wanted blood. Callisto wanted the bard’s blood no matter the consequences that followed. She shouted out for the kill harshly as Joxer shook in his boots.

He slowly took the knife and put his hand upon the bard’s shoulder. Joxer prepared to insert the knife into the helpless victim bound by ropes. She could not defend herself and he could see no real valor in killing the bard in this way. So Joxer refused as he threw down the knife. He could not kill the irritating blonde. This sent Callisto into a rage as she ripped her dagger from it sheath and approached Joxer. She walked about the idiot as he stood awaiting his own death. He chose to die rather than to kill the bard. Gabrielle feared more for his safety than her own. She was prepared to die, but hoped that Xena would arrive soon. Callisto’s vengeance was clearly out of control. The darkness rounded the kind-hearted Joxer as she glided the knife upon his exposed skin. She declared him to be noting more than a coward and an embarrassment to warriors. Then she commanded that he be chained up alongside the bard to await the arrival of the warrior princess. Callisto had a great emotionally charged theatrical prepared for her victims.

Soon the warrior princess did arrived to see the challenge which was presented before her. Callisto declared that it was time to find out who was truly the most skilled and the best warrior. She commanded her men to raise the helpless bard high above the camp into the air once again. And then she asked that a flame be lit to add time into the challenge. So the ropes which held the bard’s life were lit as they began to weaken with each passing moment. The warrior princess gathered great strength and focus from within as she prepared her action within her mind. She was quiet within the short moment of silent peace. And everyone heard the battle cry of the fair-haired Xena. Though her dark nemesis fought bravely she was still no match for our hero.   Desperate to save her friend the great warrior woman leaped into action. Xena began to climb one of the many ladders within Callisto’s camp. Suddenly her fair-haired dark nemesis leaped from her post above and kicked Xena’s ladder into two parts sending Xena crashing violently to the ground. Gabrielle called out to her friend worried for her safety. Yet the warrior princess rested the ladder into a bridge between the two sides of Callisto’s fortress. Callisto stood at the other end awaiting Xena’s next move. The warrior princess charged forth and was kicked down by the irritating blonde. Xena slid violently back toward the other side. And then she regained her strength as she jumped up into hand to hand combat with her dark nemesis.

She took Callisto’s furious kicks and punches until she could block them and then deliver her return assault. Callisto defeated in hand to hand combat flipped backward out of the path of Xena’s fury as Xena broke the ladder bridge in two with a powerful kick downward. Separated from the darkness she jumped across the way giving out her mighty battle cry and landed on a ladder parallel to her dark nemesis. She then began to race Callisto climbing to the top of the ladder in a competition. Callisto’s men tried to slow Xena down, but she defeated them throwing them to the ground as she made her way to the top of the fortress. Then the warrior princess paused showing her confidence to Callisto who was now fighting to keep up with Xena’s clever plan. The warrior princess then traveled across to the other side of the fortress using the ladder to spin across. Her battle cry could be heard again as Gabrielle’s hope rose within. She was determined to cheer the warrior princess onto victory over the darkness.

As Xena looked back Callisto matched her with the same spinning move across to the other side of the camp. But it was a trap for the ego of darkness. While Callisto was busy matching the skill of the warrior princess Xena began to build a rescuing device so that she could reach the bard. She did a half spin across on a second ladder and then shoved it together with another building a very large lever. Callisto paused with interest as she watched the warrior princess work. Yet the ropes still burned and time was running out for Gabrielle. Callisto continued to watch as Xena pulled down the final piece of the lever and spun across and then leapt kicking the ladder onto the base of the lever. Triumphantly the warrior princess flipped upon the lever with a confident loud battle cry.

She slowly scaled down the lever and pulled the other side up toward the helpless bard. Gabrielle could feel the rope weakening quickly as Xena concentrated and assured the bard that she would be there. Joxer shouted out the obvious making the bard more nervous. Then just as Xena was within reach of her rescue attempt Callisto flipped onto the other side of the lever and drew her sword. She declared with a bit of remorse that part of her darkness hoped that Xena would win this battle between her demons and her dark nemesis. Yet her light was not bright enough for she was overcome with her dark vengeance and declared that it was all over. Again the fair-haired Xena was heard screaming her vengeful battle cry as she plunged forward with her weapon toward the warrior princess. Yet Xena did not lose focus. Not even for a moment for she reacted drawing her chackram with one sudden movement. It floated gracefully from her grasp into the air slicing through the weakening rope which held the bard high up in the air.

Gabrielle began to fall as her heart thrust itself into her throat. The bard was certain that she was to meet her demise, but just when it seemed that Callisto had won the battle Xena flipped backwards onto the lever sending Callisto high up into the air as the bard landed softly upon the lever where Callisto once stood. Gabrielle found herself relieved as her heart pounded violently within her chest. The warrior princess slowly let the lever down to release Gabrielle from the danger. Callisto grabbed onto the burning rope above and awaited her demise. She was certain that she had blocked any chance of escaping the demons within the warrior princess. And though her first in command tried to save her she commanded him to allow her to die.

Just as Xena had lowered Gabrielle safely to the ground the rope snapped and Callisto laughed with the depths of evil coming from within. She was about to fall to her death until the warrior princess suddenly grabbed hold of the broken rope, and Xena had saved Callisto from a fate she most desired. Her own death leaving Callisto short of her goal. The irritating blonde groaned with despair for despite all that she had done she had still been defeated by the warrior princess. And so despite all of Callisto’s efforts she was made to face her own justice as Gabrielle found herself glad that Xena had been able to save her for justice’s sake. And so the woes of Callisto were no more as Xena and Gabrielle traveled onto continue the mission of the greater good and the end to the cycle of violence.

Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #25: The Ties That Bind

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Potedia
Scroll # 25: The Ties That Bind

October, 48 B.C.

They say that family is what binds people together stronger than any other force. The love of one’s family and the love they give in return seems greater than no other. Yet sometimes in life there are many surprises. There are people who seem like family and there are people who were never family, but are closer than blood could ever be.
This story began as Xena and Gabrielle caught wind of a new up and coming warlord. His name was Corrillous.  Corrillous’s latest victims had been from the village of Lotia where he had kidnapped twenty young women that he was to groom and sell as slaves. Corrillous was ambitious and eager to please the infamous god of war Ares. Every move Corrillous made he had consulted with the god of war, given sacrifices, and obeyed every command given to him by the god of war. Ares groomed his new commander well as Corrillous spent almost four seasons gathering thieves and murders turning their chaotic crimes into talented warriors.
The two friends had been following the movements of Corrillous and his army in an attempt to locate their camp and to rescue the twenty young women of Lotia. Gabrielle stood up above in the trees with Xena as they observed the situation carefully. The bard was learning from her skilled teacher more and more every day. As the bard looked down upon the camp she noted that there were more men down below than could be handled by the warrior princess and her help alone. Gabrielle was certain that they would be defeated. But Xena was much more confident. Gabrielle had seen her friend fight multiple enemies and she had seen her do it well. Yet Gabrielle felt uncertain with this new fierce army and its widely spoken skill. Then Gabrielle caught sight of an old man dressed in a black warrior suit. He came charging into the outskirts of Corrillous’s camp armed with two swords. The old man began to fight against some of the guards posted as if he were unaware of what he was doing.
When Gabrielle asked Xena what this lone old warrior was doing Xena found herself just as surprised by his actions as was the bard. Xena then decided that he was destined for slaughter up against Corrillous’s fierce warriors alone so the warrior princess jumped down upon her horse Argo and rode charging into battle. As she entered into the fight the old man had been disarmed and injured, but the warrior princess quickly took out the two men he had been up against. Xena’s skills were much smoother and quicker as she struck each of the enemies down gracefully and effortlessly. Then she quickly went to the aid of the old warrior asking him what he had been trying to accomplish. Once she had reached the lookout spot rejoining Gabrielle Xena realized just how delusional he had been.
The old warrior told Xena that he had charged into Corrillous’s camp for he was attempting to save the young women. This man was certain that if Xena had not interfered that the young women would have been free in that very moment. Yet Xena shrugged and denied him of that fantasy for she knew that he would not have sustained an injury to his arm had he been skilled enough to break the guards on the outskirts of the camp. She then began to wrap his arm and tend to his wound as she cleaned it up. Gabrielle jumped down from the lookout in the trees to warn Xena of a new movement within the camp. When she called out to the warrior princess the old man suddenly became ecstatic. He could not believe that this was Xena the warrior princess. Yet as soon as he found out her identity he seemed pleased and then introduced himself as Xena’s father Atrious.
The bard found herself confused as she had thought that maybe she had heard wrong, but then the old man confirmed that he was Atrious Xena’s long lost father. Xena was not convinced and seemed rather disgusted and disturbed by Atrious’s words. Then he pleaded with her asking her why she didn’t seem to recognize him. This only infuriated the warrior princess more for she seemed angry that he had been away from her for so long. Then Xena turned away from the old warrior and joined Gabrielle. When Gabrielle asked Xena again if this was indeed her father Xena mutter under her breath that one could not believe everything that was heard. With that the warrior princess jumped upon Argo and proceeded to ride off with Gabrielle running alongside to catch up.
Though it was clear to the bard that Xena was quite angry the warrior princess quickly put the experience behind her as the two friends began to execute their plan to free the imprisoned young women. It was a simple exercise. Xena began by riding straight into camp near where the girls were being held in a large wooden cage. They were outside in the open so it was very easy to reach them. There were few guards in position near the cage so it took Corrillous’s men some time to respond to the intrusion of the warrior princess upon Argo. Xena then flipped through the air into the middle of a group of Corrillous’s men distracting them with a fierce fight in swordplay as Gabrielle pushed her way through to free the girls. The bard used an old rusty dagger and an ingenious trick she had learned from the king of thieves Autolycus. Gabrielle struggled to pick the large lock, but after several moments of working the rusty dagger she heard the lock click. With relief the bard then removed the heavy lock and opened to doors to the wooden cage.
Quickly the bard instructed the girls to run into the woods for their escape and prepare for Gabrielle and the warrior princess to rejoin them. Yet one of the girls did not follow Gabrielle’s command. Gabrielle quickly went in pursuit of the young girl who ran away in the opposite direction. Quickly the bard caught up to the fearful young girl, but just as she reached the girl they were confronted by one of Corrillous’s men. He pulled his sword ready to take them, but there was a surprising twist. Suddenly from behind the brush Atrious jumped out and battled one to one against the warrior. This allowed Gabrielle to escape with the young girl with the others into safety.
Once they reached the group Xena was there awaiting them. Gabrielle then told Xena what had happened. She told of how Atrious had been there to save her and the young Rhea from harm. Xena though still not happy about Atrious’s claim to be her father she forgave him for saving her friend. When Atrious rejoined he declared that he would get them a second horse for he felt they needed it for their journey toward Lotia. Xena then spoke of her forgiveness for his heroic deed. Then she turned to Gabrielle and said that they would journey to Lotia to return the young women to their home before they would come back to Corrillous’s camp to take out his army. Xena then urged Argo to move forth, but Atrious objected. He was upset that Xena was just going to leave him behind. Xena explained that she owed him nothing more and that she did not need him to come along. Then she and Gabrielle left Atrious behind as they journeyed toward Lotia.
As they walked Gabrielle asked Rhea why she had run away. Rhea seemed uninterested in talking about it at first. Then Gabrielle realized that Rhea must have been violated by Corrillous as many warlords often take a young woman’s chastity. Gabrielle explained to Rhea that she understood and that Rhea need not blame herself for whatever had happened between her and Corrillous. Yet Rhea was still not convinced that she was innocent as Gabrielle had believed. Soon the party of innocent women stopped by a spring to bathe as Xena and Gabrielle relaxed for a moment. Gabrielle could not help feeling as if she could help Rhea feel better inside. The bard hoped to heal Rhea’s emotional wounds from this terrible experience. Gabrielle sat down next to Rhea upon the boulders and she continued to encourage Rhea that everything would be okay. Yet Rhea was quite argumentative about it. She could not let go of her mistake.
Then Rhea explained to Gabrielle that she had gone with Corrillous willingly which shamed her more than her loss of innocence with him. She explained that her family would not want her back for it had been her choice to go in the place of her sister. Gabrielle then realized why Rhea was so afraid to return home. The bard also knew that she would need time to think about how she could comfort Rhea’s soul. Gabrielle knew that a pure-hearted young girl would not do something so terrible if there was not a good reason. As the bard contemplated Rhea’s issue she joined Xena who was humming a beautiful tune. Though the warrior princess was fierce in battle there was this tender side that Gabrielle loved very much about her friend.
The bard sat down alongside her friend as she concluded her peaceful melody. Argo stood faithfully behind the warrior princess for she loved the warrior princess just as much as did Gabrielle. Then Gabrielle inquired Xena about her father. She wanted to know what Xena remembered about the old man. Xena made certain that Gabrielle was aware that there was still a lot of uncertainty of the truth of Atrious’s words. But then Xena reminisced about the one good thing she remembered about the man that went away leaving her, her mother, and brothers behind. Xena spoke of how he used to ride upon his beautiful horse. He would charge the horse toward her and then stop just short of galloping over her. Then her father would reach down with his mighty strong arms and take her upon the horse with him. Then they would ride together through the open fields.
As Gabrielle watched Xena express wonderful memory out loud she envisioned how exciting that experience must have been for a young Xena. Xena did agree that the experience was just as exciting as it had been wonderful. Yet their peaceful moment of sharing was soon interrupted by the call of duty. Across the spring in the distance the voice of Atrious called out Xena’s name frantically. He was riding in upon a brown horse followed by to men upon their horses. They were seemingly chasing him as the young women dispersed quickly from the spring. Xena jumped upon Argo and quickly rode again into battle. Atrious had seemingly gotten himself into another helpless situation.
The two men chasing him prepared their cross bows for revenge upon Atrious, but just before they could pull their triggers Xena the warrior princess fired her chackram across the sky slicing off the point of their arrows. Then she flipped off of her horse into the air as the chackram came back landing into its resting place upon her hip. This happened as she was still flipping and then just before she landed before the enemy she drew her sword for battle. Of course she did this with her famous battle cry. The warrior princess quickly caught an ax the flew at her from the enemy just before her graceful landing. Then the second enemy approached her with his swords. The warrior princess blocked his first advance with the ax and then released it handling the enemy with only her sword.
This unexpected battle ended very quickly and the girls were safe once more. Xena found herself even more irritated at Atrious for it was revealed to her by the two men who had been attacking him that their horse had been stolen. When Xena asked Atrious if he had stolen the horse Atrious denied that it was stolen. Instead he declared that he had been owed a favor and this horse was fair payment. The warrior princess then asked the men if it were true what Atrious had said. They didn’t deny that they had owed a debt. Xena found her suspicions to be incorrect yet again. Atrious was upset with his daughter for she seemingly did not trust him at all no matter how hard he tried to win her over. Then he warmed up to her trying to melt her heart. He then began humming the same tune that she had been humming just before he had ridden in with his new-found horse. Atrious then reminded Xena of those wonderful times they had together. He expressed that all he wanted was to be with is daughter again. Xena found herself desperately trying to fight the possibility of Atrious being real to her.
Yet Xena did not reject him allowing him to travel with them this time. She left him to flank in the front of the group while she, Argo, and Gabrielle flanked the back. Gabrielle then asked Xena if indeed Atrious had stolen the horses. Xena assured the bard that they had not been stolen despite her suspicions. Once Gabrielle was satisfied with Atrious’s innocence she seeked out Rhea once more. Again Gabrielle tried to comfort and encourage Rhea despite all that had happened. Rhea finally found the courage to explain why she had gone away willingly. She told of how she wanted her sister to have the happiness that she had deserved. Rhea’s sister had her entire life ahead of her for she had been preparing to wed. Gabrielle realized that Rhea’s love for her sister had been so strong that she had willingly given up her own innocence so that her sister could be happy. The bard found this to be very commendable and expressed to Rhea how wonderful her deed had been despite the pain. Gabrielle was certain that Rhea’s family would welcome her back with appreciation and open arms.
Soon Gabrielle looked to rejoin Xena who had moved to the front talking with Atrious. Xena found herself warming up to her father for the first time all day. The warrior princess was finally feeling as if she had that wonderful man back in her life. She had missed out on so much without him and Gabrielle could see how delighted the two were with each other. Yet the peace Gabrielle saw within the warrior princess was soon interrupted by the sound of a flying dart. The warrior princess heard it too as she reached up to catch it with her bare hand. She had saved Atrious once again from being killed.
Quickly the warrior princess charged into the trees and found the sharp shooter. She then surprised him shooting his next dart through the tube back into his own throat. The warrior princess had taken him by surprise asking the skilled shooter to send Corrillous a message. She wanted Corrillous to know that it would not be easy to kill the warrior princess. As the enemy struggled to run back to his camp he was stopped by Atrious whose weapon was drawn and ready for the kill. Gabrielle rounded the corner just in time to see the cruelty within the heart of Atrious. She was astonished as Atrious showed no mercy upon the helpless victim. He took advantage of a defenseless man thrusting his sword through the chest of the victim. Gabrielle watched in shock and horror unable to move or speak. She just stood motionless as Atrious pulled out his weapon.
Soon Xena had joined them seeing that Gabrielle was clearly upset. Xena asked Gabrielle what the problem was. Gabrielle tried desperately to explain in detail what she had seen. She told of how Atrious had taken a man’s life unfairly and without remorse. Yet Atrious explained to Xena that he had done it only because he was trying to kill Xena. Then Atrious made certain that Xena knew that the man had a knife. Atrious claimed that he had killed him in self-defense yet Gabrielle was certain that she had seen no dagger. Then Xena’s suspicions were risen once more as she rolled the dead victim over. Beneath the victim was a dagger upon the ground, but Gabrielle was still certain that she had not seen a dagger. Xena then declared that mistakes can sometimes be made. She admitted that even she had made a mistake. It was obvious to the bard that Xena now fully trusted Atrious although Gabrielle could not shake the strange feeling. Something was certainly not right.
Then Xena went back to check on the girls as Atrious approached Gabrielle. He spoke to her in strange way. Atrious told the bard that after they returned the girls to Lotia he would be leaving again. He made certain that Gabrielle was aware that he could see how strong the friendship was between the bard and Xena. He did not want wish to get in the way. Atrious felt strongly that it was wrong for him to be in their way. They were a team and he felt that as long as Gabrielle were a part of Xena’s life that there was no place for him there. Then he left Gabrielle alone to ponder what he had said. The bard found herself even more shocked and confused. Then Rhea suddenly appeared and interrupted Gabrielle’s thought. Rhea asked Gabrielle if everything was okay as Gabrielle shook off the funny feeling. Then Rhea asked Gabrielle if it was wrong to leave her village with Corrillous so that her sister and her husband could be together. Gabrielle realized what Rhea had been asking. It had indeed been the right choice for Rhea and Gabrielle suddenly realized what she herself had to do.
Sadly Gabrielle prepared to leave Xena behind. Though Gabrielle loved Xena more than anyone else in the world she knew that she had to leave her friend with Atrious. Xena needed her long-lost father now and Gabrielle felt strongly that she would be an intrusion. Gabrielle had planned out how she would leave Xena without having to truely say good-bye. When Gabrielle found her friend she asked Xena to stay behind with Atrious so that they could lookout for Corrillous and his army. Gabrielle suggested that she take the girls back to Lotia alone so that Xena and Atrious could stay back and fight. Xena asked Gabrielle if she was certain that she wanted to do this. Gabrielle had made up her mind and quietly within her heart said good-bye to the beautiful warrior princess. Then the bard lead Rhea and the others back to Lotia where they would be safe once again.
Upon reaching Lotia Gabrielle urged Rhea to return to the loving arms of her family. Rhea did and her family accepted her with open arms. Her sister had been joyful to be reunited with Rhea, and her sister’s husband was grateful for the happiness Rhea had given them. Rhea found that her heart was relieved, and that her spirit could begin to heal. Gabrielle was satisfied for she had done another good deed. And as things appeared to come together for the better there was uncertainty in the wind. Xena planned to return to Lotia to rejoin with her friend. As she tried once more to leave Atrious behind he insisted that he must join her to help the people of Lotia. He seemingly knew that Xena still wrestled with past demons. Atrious took claim to some past demons of his own concerning the people of Lotia. Those were the only words needed to convince Xena to allow him to join her in Lotia where they would protect and then defeat.
When they reached Lotia Atrious was not greeted with a warm welcome. As soon as they entered into the tavern the people of Lotia took him captive. The village magistrate declared that he had to pay for his past crimes against Lotia and its people. Xena was upset that they treated him in this way. She had been treated with the very same distrust many times and felt his pain of being rejected. The warrior princess pleaded with the villagers to allow him to go and fight alongside her against Corrillous’s approaching army. Yet the magistrate refused for Atrious had fooled them before declaring that he was their ally only to betray them in the end. With the dagger to his throat Atrious begged Xena not to worry about him. He needed to pay for his sins of the past. Atrious wanted to reckon with his demons no matter the price.
Xena tried one last attempt at rescuing her father from his sentence. She declared that if she defeated Corrillous’s army alone that the village of Lotia allow her father to go free. The magistrate laughed for he was certain that the warrior princess could not defeat an army alone. Yet Xena was vigilant and confident that it could be done. With that declaration the warrior princess headed off to Corrillous’s camp. There she met face to face with Corrillous who had plans for the warrior princess. He had been challenged by Ares who declared that he could never defeat the warrior princess in battle. Corrillous asked Xena into a false truce. He declared that she drop her weapons, but Xena was too clever for that trick. Instead she declared that Corrillous be the first to show that he would spare the village of Lotia.
Corrillous threw down is sword as requested. Then Xena responded accordingly. Yet the ambitious warlord was certain of his victory over the warrior princess in front of his audience and army. He pulled a dagger from his belt and hurled it toward the warrior princess. Xena caught his weapon with her bare handed skill and then discarded it to the ground. She warned Corrillous of his unwise decision. The challenge was on as Corrillous jumped down from his horse to retrieve his sword for a duel. Then Xena flipped from her place upon Argo and ripped her sword from its upright resting place in the ground. Suddenly Corrillous charged forward as they battled violently against one another. Their duel was fierce. Xena was driven by her passionate love for her long-lost father as Corrillous was driven by his ego and ambitions. The two had disarmed one another and their battle shifted from clashing swords to a hand to hand combat. They rolled upon the ground in a struggle of good against evil.
Yet Xena came out the winner defeating evil with the intentions of love. She then took control of Corrillous’s army as they began to chant the name of their new commander. It had been over six seasons since Xena had last commanded an army. Darphus had taken her army from her, but now she had her army back again. It was well-trained and ready for battle. The warrior princess left her challenger to face his humiliation alone as she rode off at the head of her new army. They rode off toward Lotia to free Xena’s father.
Upon arriving in Lotia Xena found her beloved father displayed before her strung up in the village square badly beaten awaiting his death. The sight drove her heart into pain and sorrow, but it soon turned to a nasty vengeance which she had not experienced in many seasons. She gave the command for her new army to take the village and then the battle of goodness against vengeance commenced. The soldiers of Xena’s new army captured the Lotian people from their homes, and businesses. They began invading the tavern as the people began to scream and scatter about in fear. Gabrielle ran out to see what was happening. She spotted Xena riding in the streets upon Argo and declared that she would not hurt anyone.
Suddenly Gabrielle was captured by one of the members of the army. She demanded that he release her for she was a close friend to Xena. Yet the man did not heed her words declaring that he was related to the god Zeus. Suddenly Gabrielle realized that somehow the situation was beyond control. Sometime was definitely wrong, but she was uncertain of what it was. The feeling was like the one she had experienced when she witnessed Atrious’s murder of Corrillous’s helpless warrior. Then Gabrielle caught sight of Xena carrying her father toward the tavern where she stood captive with the rest of the villagers. Xena’s eyes were hazy seemingly clouded by anger. Atrious struggled to speak to Xena as she knelt down with him. He proclaimed that all he had ever wanted was to be with his daughter. Xena’s eyes began to well up with tears as she tried to ease his pain. The warrior princess could see he was about to leave her again. And then Atrious took his last breath leaving her behind once again. Yet this time it was different. This time he had been taken from her.
The warrior princess rose from the ground. She demanded that someone pay for her loss and so she gave another harsh command to her new army. The warrior princess demanded that her new army kill every last villager in Lotia. Gabrielle suddenly realized that she had to stand up and fight. She had to take control for Xena was beyond it. The bard released herself from her capture with an elbow to the stomach. She then grabbed a pitch fork and approached the darkness boldly and without fear. The bard held her weapon steady and with desperate anger. Disappointment had built up within her for the warrior princess was giving in to the darkness which had engulfed so many innocent people. Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess to stop, but Xena seemingly did not hear.
Then the bard reminded the dark warrior of a day that she saw goodness. The bard recalled the day that they first met when she learned from the warrior princess how to stand up and fight for good. Gabrielle reminded the warrior princess of the wrath of Draco who almost destroyed her home and her life. The bard reminded Xena that if she did not turn back to the light once more that she would be forced to turn against the one she loved. Gabrielle was ready to sacrifice herself and her dark friend for to good of the people of Lotia. Determined with great will the bard could see that she was beginning to get through, but just when she thought she had won over Xena’s darkness Atrious rose from the dead.
He demanded that his daughter take to lives of those villager whom had savagely beaten him. Atrious demanded that Xena stand by him with the vengeance that he knew she had within her. Gabrielle felt that she was losing Xena once more. She made a quick decision as she struck Xena from behind with her weapon knocking the warrior princess violently to the ground. Slowly the warrior princess rose from the ground. She looked to Gabrielle and then looked back at Atrious who was mumbling vengeance out of control. He was sharp in his persuasion, but then suddenly Xena caught onto the game for she saw that it had been Ares all along. Suddenly Atrious transformed into the visage of the god of war before the eyes of the villagers and all who witnessed his presence.
He then went onto explain to Xena that he had finally succeeded. Ares spoke of how he had used Corrillous to build Xena the perfect army. He had done it all for Xena in order to win her back. Ares wanted Xena to be the commander of his ultimate conquest for violent war. The god of war continued as he explained that it had taken him a while to figure out the last part of his complex plan, but then he thought of Xena’s father. It was when that came to him that he realized just how he could win Xena over. Ares had been delighted at how well his plan had worked, and now he demanded that he deserved the love and appreciation from the daughter whose father he portrayed so very well.
Xena was on the verge, but then declared that she would not follow Ares. She asked him to give up on her and to find a new conquesting warrior. Yet Ares was still holding onto some control over the emotionally confused warrior princess. He began changing back into the vision of Xena’s long lost father. And then he switched back into himself. He kept talking to the warrior princess as if he were her father trying desperately to hold control of her darkness. But the warrior princess fought against the darkness and finally broke free. She threw her sword to the ground before Ares and declared that she would never give in. Ares realized that he had lost control and became enraged. He threatened the warrior princess with death if she did not comply with his wishes. Yet the warrior princess had restored her freedom from his grasp. She challenged him to do just that. The warrior princess challenged the god of war to kill his prize warrior. Gabrielle pleaded with Xena not to do it for she knew very well the power of the gods. Anyone who dared to defy them was certain to meet death.
Ares then displayed his godly powers raising Xena’s sword from the ground without ever touching it. He then thrust it through the air forward toward the brave warrior princess. The crowd of soldiers, and villagers watched with fear as the weapon neared the victim. But just before the point of the sword struck the neck of the warrior princess it stopped short. Ares could not bring himself to kill the warrior princess and so the battle was over. The god of war vanished from sight leaving only with the whispering words of his return. Then Lotia was finally freed and relieved to be safe once more.
As the warrior princess and the bard prepared to leave together Xena found herself confiding in her friend. She apologized for straying from her path and thanked Gabrielle for reminding her of her of the truth. Gabrielle was satisfied and pleased that she had been able to help the warrior princess find herself in her time of need. Then Xena spoke words from the heart to the bard. She told the bard that everyone in the world has a family which they love and are a part of. Yet Xena was certain that Gabrielle was even more than family though they were not related by blood. Gabrielle felt the same way about her friend as they began to head off into the next challenge. And so the warrior princess and the bard have found themselves bound by ties beyond family. An everlasting friendship that will endure great things has come into their lives.

Xena Scrolls: Volume 2: Scroll #22: The Prodigal

The Xena Scrolls
By: Gabrielle Bard of Podedia
Scroll# 22: The Prodigal

July, 48 B.C.

I sing of my own journey to becoming a warrior and of the lesson of a truth within myself. Xena and I were traveling along a treacherous rocky cliff as I played my harmonious whistle instrument. There was much joy within my soul for all of the good that we had done together and for all of the adventures we had. Not only that, but I was joyful of the friendship that Xena and I had developed after all of the barriers that I had to go through to gain the trust of the warrior princess. Within my heart was singing for it had been on the right course though the life of a warrior is often not the most glamorous life that one might think. As I played my tune I was reminded of the story of Orpheus and how he could play tunes that could move mountains. Naturally I thought of testing my theory to the truths of a story for I had always found that with each story I had ever heard no matter how outrageous there was always at least one kernel of truth within it.
As I was about to test my theory of truth Xena forbade me to move forward with my plan. She did know me well and though I often don’t like to admit it. I’ve gotten us into a few tough spots with my undying curiosity. Like the time we found ourselves up against the Titans, or the time that I tried to stop a family feud and got sentenced to death at noon instead of welcomed as an ally by the King of Biocha. Xena was right again as always. She had always been right though I always wished that I could be right just once. And so I didn’t test my theory of trying to move massive jagged rocks with the sounds of my harmonious music. Instead we found ourselves interrupted by a new threat outside of my curiosity.
It was the threat of five rouges who had decided that they would take Xena and I as their prize. I find it funny how men always think of women as objects to be owned rather than the beautiful people that we are. The great amazon princess Terrayas once said that the world in which we live is a man’s world, but only because we allow it to be. In this moment I began to realize just how Helen of Troy must have felt when Mentalaeous, Paris, and Deifabous all battled to have her as their prize. So many lives were lost over this male need to possess. The rouges who challenged us demanded that Xena and I surrender. For if we did not they had prepared for us a demise and certain death. The men then revealed their weapons. A few cheap swords and a wagon with sharp logs aimed at us were their messages of threat. Xena was completely calm and collected as these events unfolded. I wasn’t so certain of the situation. I had found myself very uncertain a lot in the recent past.
Xena commanded her loyal steed Argo to advance running toward the enemy as she flipped into action. Then the warrior princess began to fight against the men who held swords. As she battled the odds of four against one that left one enemy for me to fight. It was obvious to me that Xena’s confidence in my abilities were beginning to expand. Yet her new-found confidence for me couldn’t have come at a worse time. Quickly I tried to think of what to do next as my lone enemy glared in my direction. He was prepared to pull the lever to the cart that would unleash certain death upon me. I had to stop him from pulling the lever and releasing the rocks beneath. As I looked about I found a large stone in the mud and retrieved it for a weapon. My staff would not work for I was too far away to attack or even defend, but the rock was perfect. As I launched it through the air I hit my mark perfectly upon his head.
As he fell backward his arm jerked the lever which released the rocks from beneath the cart at the top of the canyon. Suddenly, I found myself in a terrible new situation. My only thought was that I should duck under the cart and hope that it would blow over me. The large wooden wheels looked far enough apart for me to escape underneath. Quickly I fell to the ground awaiting the violent cart. As I fell to the ground I shouted out to Xena who was still fighting within the path of the cart. Suddenly Xena flipped into action and grabbed me returning me to my feet. Together we faced the large rolling cart. Then Xena dropped to the ground shouting for me to do the same. But I couldn’t. I was frozen as I saw the sharp edges of the logs upon the cart. They were coming straight for me and I could do nothing. My fear was so great that it was the only emotion I could react to. The mind was clouded by these fearful emotions. Within the moment before my certain death Xena cut my feet from under me and I fell hard to the ground.
As the cart passed above us I suddenly heard it crash upon the rocks just behind us. Our enemies ran for cover realizing that there was no way that they could defeat the warrior princess. As Xena rose from the ground in triumph she was delighted at our small battle. She felt that familiar warrior adrenaline that runs through your veins just as you’ve defeated the enemy. Xena was truly energized and excited commenting on how wonderful that moment had been. She was certain that I had shared in it with her, but sadly I had not. I slowly rose from the ground realizing that I had endangered my friend. If this battle had been like our battle at Troy or any other large battle I could have jeopardized her life as well. I found myself not being able to face the feeling of a fear that would endanger my friend. In my heart I knew that I could not react like a true warrior then I needed to do the only thing I could think to do. I needed to leave Xena behind and return to my home in Podedia. She would be much safer without having to worry about my freezing up in a tough situation.
Xena began to move onto the next moment upon asking if I was okay. Of course I replied that I was physically okay, but not within. The warrior princess suggested that we take the southern route along the river to our next destination. Although it would be longer it was certain to be more safe. Yet I wasn’t really thinking of our next journey together. As far as I could tell this battle against the rouges had been our last. Xena found herself confused that I didn’t agree that her travel plans were safe, but then I explained to her that I had to go home. She didn’t understand for I had never wanted to go home before. Xena wanted to know what I wanted to go home for and I explained that sometimes one needs her family to sort through life’s challenges. My friend and teacher was still confused by my emotional reaction. I explained that I needed to return home to my sister for I was certain that she would understand my feelings. Xena was offended at my comment for she thought that maybe I didn’t trust her. It was not an issue of trust at all.
Then Xena knew what the problem was. She realized that I was upset with myself for having frozen in the heat of battle. Xena explained with encouragement that every warrior has those moments of freeze. Yet I had never seen the warrior princess have a moment like that. Xena realized that I was right for she never felt that way in battle. She always seemed to know exactly what to do and how to handle any tough situation. I could sense that she was still upset that I did not wish to talk to her about it. Then I explained why I was really leaving. I explained that I did not want to endanger her because of my lack of reaction to a situation. She then explained that the solution was a very simple one. All a warrior must remember is that you never react. The answer was simple. It was act don’t react. But for me it was easier said than done. Yet Xena was still not willing to allow me to go. Even when I told her that having me around was a danger for her she accept the consequence of it. I could not accept that consequence. I could not accept being the reason Xena’ s life was in jeopardy. And I knew that she would give her life for me. When that day would come I would still be without her and if I could not stand on my own then she would be giving her life for mine in vain.
And so I stood firm on my choice to go back to Podedia. Xena understood. She inquired if I was coming back. I told her that I was uncertain. That it would depend on what I discovered when I returned home to Podedia. I could sense my friend’s disappointment that I was leaving, but I had made my choice. Soon I was on my way back on the road to home. A part of me was excited for I was going to see my sister again. I had missed Lilla very much in the days since I had been gone. She was important to me as were my family and friends back home. Upon seeing Perdicous at Troy I had been reminded of how I had left everyone without saying good-bye although I had said good-bye to Lilla.
My journey home was just as grueling as the journey to find Xena had been. Though I had a road map handy it didn’t seem to unravel the mysteries of the roads that all men travel. All I could think of was the twenty-two leagues which stood between me and my home. And of the great stories of a far off land where they had a monument known as the Sphinx. It seemed to me that men knew more about the Sphinx than they did about their own roads. My frustrations were beginning to get the best of me. I was finding that I was getting tired of walking the road home alone. So I decided to find the main road back to Podedia and hopefully catch a ride. Yet that was easier said than done for not too many traders are kind-hearted. I tried waving, being friendly, I even tried to show a little leg. But none of those tactics worked so I tried the only one I had left. I posed as an expecting young mother. Certainly no man could turn down a ride for her. As the first cart began to pass me by I was angered that not even an expecting mother was worth stopping for.
I struck my luck soon after I began to curse those who chose to pass by. An old traveler stopped and offered me a ride. The irony of it was that it was the same old man I had ridden to Amphipolis with when I had tried to catch up to Xena before. It was a pleasure to see him and I told him more stories, but this time they were my own stories and not those I learned in a tavern back home. We argued about the truth of King Sisyphus and his wife Caron. He was certain that he knew Sisyphus, but it didn’t sound as if we were talking about the same man. The old traveler was shocked to see how much I had changed since our last encounter. I decided to embellish a little on how I came to be expecting. My memory of Tallus and of his stories that healed suffering souls came to mind.
Finally our journey together was over and I asked the old traveler to drop me off. He was concerned for me because it was still a day’s walk from the road to Podedia. Yet I assured him that I’d be okay for I knew a shorter route through the woods. My old friend was shocked at my adventurous endeavor, but he couldn’t stop a young girl from her passions and so he traveled on without me.
As I walked through the woods I was reminded of the last time I had been through them. I thought of that silly cyclops I had encountered and wondered where he might have gone. He was probably pretty angry by now that I had not brought him the warrior princess as promised.
When I reached the neighboring village to Podedia I found it in ruin. It was smoldering with the remnants of a fierce fire that had recently burnt it down. All was quiet as I walked through to investigate. The village seemed eerie as if something was not right. And then I saw a man who seemed very upset and saddened. He was digging a grave alone in the ruins. When I tried to get his attention he ignored me as if I wasn’t there. Finally I broke through to him and inquired of his despair. My heart cried for his knowing he must have suffered some great tragedy. He spoke of the small army of thieves which belonged to Damon and of how they had demanded constant food and supplies from his village.
He said that he had held back for his young son in the coming winter knowing that he would be hungry if all the food was turned over to Damon’s army. Because of his defiance Damon and his army killed almost all in the village and burned it to the ground. Yet this man of despair asked that I not pity himself or the dead. He asked instead that I pity the people of Podedia for it was where Damon had declared he would be striking next. Suddenly my heart began to pound with worry and of concern. I hoped that I was not too late to save my own village from ruin. Without another question I dashed through the woods toward home. Just as I reached the last cliffs I peeked over them with the hope that Podedia would still be standing. Thankfully it was and my heart could breathe a sigh of relief, but I knew in my mind that time was very short. So I continued to run until I finally reached the gates of my familiar home.
As I entered into Podedia all was silent. It was as if it were a ghost town for it seemed deserted. Yet there were still fresh chickens hanging in the market and wet laundry drying on the lines. Nothing, but the frantic tumbleweeds blew through as I raised my staff ready to do battle. It seemed to me as if everyone had fled for their lives hearing of the wrath of Damon and his army. I then approached the door to my home tavern where I had first realized that I wanted a life of adventure. Slowly I pushed the door open with the edge of my staff and as I entered the quiet tavern there was a sudden burst of excitement and energy. Everyone was in the tavern and they were holding a surprise party for someone that I did not know. I was startled by this unexpected welcome. It was kind of nice to be welcomed with such enthusiasm, but it quickly disappeared into disappointment.
No one had expected that Gabrielle would walk through the door. Instead I was approached by my sister who hugged me with relief. My heart filled with joy to be with her again. But my heart was quickly reminded by the mind of the danger which awaited me and my village. I announced to all in the tavern that Damon was on his way to cause harm to us all. Yet no one seemed surprised by this as if it were old news. Then I was approached by the village magistrate Ferris. He first asked me with great sarcasm if I had brought the great warrior princess along with me. When I answered that I had come alone he told me that they didn’t need Xena’s help at all for they had been awaiting Meleager the Mighty. That name sounded very familiar to me. He was a well-known warrior who had killed over 100 men single-handedly at Lagoria. Yet I was corrected by Lilla who said it had been 200 men, and then by Ferris who declared with great pride that it had been 250. Then the mighty warrior entered into the tavern himself to correct us all. The exact number he had fought and killed single-handedly had been 317. Yet numbers were seemingly unimportant at the moment. I was more curious about why Meleager was in Podedia. Ferris explained that they had hired Meleager to ward off an attack by Damon and his small army. In fact, Ferris was willing to pay 50,000 dinars to Meleager to finish off Damon.
Although Meleager was told to be a mighty warrior my first impression of him was not at all a mighty one. Instead he seemed drunk, disoriented, and selfish. Melegear did not fit the mold of the typical heroic warrior that I had learned about. As he presented himself to the people he stumbled asking of Ferris the payment they had agreed upon. Ferris reminded the drunk that he was to get half before and the other half when the job was finished. It seemed to me that all the old washed up drunk was concerned about was where he was going to buy his next drink. And then suddenly as the townspeople began to leave the tavern Meleager the Mighty became Meleager the not so tidy. He fell to the ground drunk beyond control. Meleagar passed out and left Lilla and I with his responsibilities.
Ferris instructed us to take him to our home and to revive him. He assumed since I had traveled with a warrior that I knew exclusively how to deal with warriors. He was right. I did know how to deal with warriors, but I didn’t know how to deal with a drunk. Lilla and I struggled to pull off Meleager’s boots. They were strapped onto his nasty feet pretty tightly. When we finally did yank them off they didn’t smell much better. I could at least give him that. He did smell like a true warrior. I found myself disgusted with his behavior and his lack of concern and respect for my village, and himself. As I explained to Lilla that a true warrior did not behave in this way and that Xena had never taught me these warrior lessons. Lilla rose from the ground angrily as she threw one of Malleagar’s nasty boots in my face. She was clearly upset with me and I wasn’t really sure why. Lilla just mumbled something about Xena being better and then stormed off. Unfortunately she had left me with the task of reviving the drunk and hopefully bring him to a presentable state.
Later in the day Meleager did finally manage to regain consciousness. He returned to the tavern with me while I tried desperately to work through my issues with Lilla. As Meleager continued to drink himself toward oblivion Lilla and I ended up out in the town square arguing in a way that we had never argued before. Lilla was furious that I had left her for so long. But before we could finish our confrontation some of Damon’s men came into the town square for more supplies. They began to harass the defenseless villagers of my village. Suddenly Lilla and I decided that we would return to the tavern to find Meleager at the bar.
When we urged Meleager to come out and fight Damon’s men he only proceeded to ask where his money was. He was completely disoriented. In fact, he didn’t even know the name of the village he was drinking in. Again he fell over passing out onto the floor. Lilla became panicked, but I had a plan that would at least scare the enemy off until we could restore our only hope. So Lilla and I constructed a simple pulley and tied Meleager the puppet to it. Lilla controlled the motions of our great hero as I did all of the talking. I threatened the enemy with Malleager’s reputation as Lilla made his limbs appear to be ready to do battle.  Luckily my bluff worked and his reputation was larger than life because the plan worked scaring off the enemy temporarily.
I then decided that somehow I had to get control of this disastrous situation. Lilla was still certain that Meleager was our only hope, but I wasn’t so certain that he was up to the task. In fact, I told Lilla that our best chance was to rally the village people and to lead them in a fight against Damon and his men. It was quite obvious that Meleager was a useless drunk at best.
When Lilla and I returned Meleager to our home he was still passed out. But if he was any kind of warrior then he would be able to sense my malicious approach. I instructed Lilla to fetch a pail of cold water just in case my plan failed me. As I prepared to slap him silly to awaken him from his drunken slumber I found that my instincts were correct. His warrior training had sensed my approach and despite his drunken stuper his eyes flew open as he raised his sword to block my advance. He warned that I need not come any closer and that he was indeed alert. Then he looked about and asked me where he was. As he began to fumble through names of many villages I corrected him with frustration.
Then he asked me for another drink. I could not allow him to have another drop. And yet I wanted to understand why he was so broken. There had to be some truth to the heroic stories of Meleager the Mighty. As I tried to urge him that he had a job to do. I scolded him for his nasty disrespectful behavior. Meleager seemed agitated at my lashing out at him. He was certain that a farm girl could never understand the life and trials of a warrior. I knew that I wasn’t a real warrior like Xena, but I did know of the life of a warrior. As Meleager tried to convey the hardships which had brought him here to this terrible moment of his life I began to realize that I could understand him and connect. He described all of the things that I had encountered with Xena. Meleager spoke of the betrayal, and of not knowing who one could trust. He spoke of the blood, and of the violence that a warrior must face every day. He spoke of all of the things that no one ever hears about the story of the true warrior. And as he spoke I began to relate and I began to realize that he became a drunk after realizing that even a warrior as mighty as he could freeze in a tough moment of battle. I completely understood this for it was the reason I had come home. His escape was drinking and mine was to abandon my heart’s desire.
It was clear to me what I had to do. I had come home to escape the warrior life, but found that it had followed me there. My job now was to restore the true warrior within Meleager and within myself. Once again Meleager tried to take his misery back to the bottle, but Lilla came in at just the right time drenching with a dose of real cold water. It was reality at its best. Once we restored him to a state of sobriety the three of us began our mission together to save Potedia.
Our first step was to go into the woods and create a barrage for our defenses to come. Yet we needed to find coverage trees in order to make the barrage a success. Meleager could easily follow my plan, but Lilla was quite confused. She tried desperately to keep up with the warrior jargon, but found herself frustrated by her lack of understanding. Meleager and I decided that in order to move things along more quickly we would have to split up to find our coverage trees. Lilla and I went in one direction while Meleager went alone in the other. My sister’s anger burst into another argument as we continued to look for the coverage trees. She scolded me once again for leaving her behind for so long. Lilla was angry that I had gone though when I had left she had been supportive. I was confused by this for if she had told me before how she truly felt I might not have been able to leave her behind.
Lilla confirmed that she had indeed been supportive of my need for the adventure, but because I had not been back to Podedia to visit since I had left she felt that I had forgotten about her. I began to understand her deep resentment for Xena and her anger. She thought that maybe Xena had replaced Lilla’s spot within my heart. This was far from the truth. It had been that spot within my heart that had ached to see Lilla once again. Xena did have a special place too, but it could never replace the part of me that needed my sister. Then in the hope that I could further comfort my sister’s concerns I declared that I had come home for good because my heart had missed her dearly. Lilla found herself satisfied with this and she forgave me for my mistake.
Soon after our resolution of the heart we heard a shout coming from Meleager. It sounded like he had been attacked. Lilla and I ran back toward the place where we had left him alone. I was certain that he had been taken by the enemy for I had caught wind of a reward for Meleager’s capture by the warlord Romulus in my travels with Xena. His brother had been one of those whom Meleager had killed in his battle at Laguria. The reward had been for 50,000 dinars alive and 20,000 dead. I was certain that Damon had taken Meleager to his camp as I studied the scene of the battle.
Meleager had been attacked by the first man, but he had been able to take the enemy down. But two more men came from behind in a surprise retaliation and knocked him out most likely with the handles of their swords. Then I spotted drag marks. They were the kind made by a litter. I decided that I would go to Damon’s camp to rescue Meleager while Lilla went back to our village to warn of the danger. Our village had to be prepared just in case Meleager had been killed before I reached Damon’s camp. As I followed the marks I decided that I would slow down Damon’s army giving Podedia more time to prepare for their attack. I did not expect to make it back myself, but I knew that Lilla could handle things in my absence. She had grown up so much since I had last seen her.
As I approached the horses I was captured by Damon’s guards and they took me directly to Damon. Of course this worked to my advantage for there I found Meleager who was still alive, but captive. The two of them appeared to be working out a deal regarding the price on Meleager’s head. When Damon asked me what I had been doing roaming around his horses I began to try talking my way out of the situation. Yet when I mentioned the great philosopher Sophocles he seemed very uninterested and decided to have me killed instead. Just before I was about to be cut across the throat by my capture Meleager stepped forward. He declared that if he had a bit more romantic incentive he may be able to be persuaded to join Damon and his army.
And so I was taken to one of the many tents within Damon’s camp. As I awaited my uninvited lover I wondered if I could even trust Meleager. Soon I heard him approaching quite enthusiastic at this turn of events. And then when he came inside his tone changed as he questioned my appearance into Damon’s camp. In that moment I knew that Damon was a true ally. I tried to convince him that I had come to rescue him, but he wasn’t so certain that I had succeeded. Then he asked me if I had a plan. I didn’t, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t come up with one on short notice. Moments later my sharp wit kicked in as Meleager and I staged a performance like no other for the guards outside the tent. We basked in a passionate love scheme though it was strictly for the purpose of performance and escape. My plan worked as the guards became very distracted by the passion which came from within. Meleager was easily able to take them down as we escaped Damon’s camp undetected.
When we returned to Podedia we immediately began to build our defenses within the walls of the village. I of course led the troops rallying everyone including Meleager.  Together we made a great team of warriors. And after all of the necessary preparations had been made we all took turns standing watch for the return of Damon and his army.  Meleager and I were certain that Damon would return with his entire force once he figured out that Meleager and I had escaped.
A day and a night went by. Lilla and I were standing guard during the early morning hours together. Of course she fell asleep on duty. But it did not matter. What was important was that together we were about to defeat the evil which was about to threaten our village. I woke Lilla accidentally startling her. She was disappointed that she had fallen asleep on watch and had thought that maybe I would be angry. But I was not at all angry. Instead I spoke to her of the changes I had seen within her. She was no longer that little sister that needed my guidance. Lilla was a grown young woman able to stand on her own two feet. In fact, she had become extremely assertive and expressive which was a new side to my sister. Yet I liked this side of her and loved her even more.
As Lilla began to watch once more I began to find myself thinking of Xena again. I realized that I had come home hoping to return to a place that no longer existed. My sister no longer needed her big sister to show her the way. I was no longer obligated to marry a farm boy. And I even found that many people were still upset with me for leaving. Then I wondered out loud what Xena would have thought of me and my sister leading our village into battle. Lilla declared that Damon’s army was on its way, but I was still in deep thought. My spirit leapt with true confidence for the first time. Finally Lilla got my attention and declared once more that our battle was about to begin. Quickly I gave my first order asking Lilla to tell Ferris to sound the warning bell.
Then I ran to our home to awaken Meleager, but when I reached his bed he was not there. My heart sank when I realized that he had still not yet recovered from losing is nerve. I was certain to find him back in the tavern drinking, but when I arrived there I only found Ferris and an empty chest. Ferris was certain that Meleager had stolen the money and made a run for the hills. He was ready to give up without Meleager, but I was not. Instead I gathered Lilla and explained to Ferris that sometimes we must expect the unexpected. Xena and I had been through tougher spots than this. We were ready and prepared. But Ferris argued that we were not. He was not willing to stand up and fight. Ferris even went as far as to accuse me of being an outsider to my own home. But my sister stood up to defend me. She gave the most wonderful and uplifting speech to the village.
Lilla explained to everyone that we must all stand up and fight together. She told the village that it had a warrior despite what everyone believed. Lilla declared me to be a worthy warrior who would lead Podedia and its people to victory. She reminded everyone that a student of Xena could be one of the best gifts the village could have. And so I took command once again preparing all to take their battle positions. As Damon’s men came through the village gates they hit our first line of defense. It was a simple contraption which tripped them up knocking them off of their feet. The second line of defense were the hot cauldrons of stew which fell upon their heads. And finally we had the ultimate distraction awaiting Damon’s men. It seemed that no man could resist the offer of a beautiful maiden. As the young women enticed the thieves into the pit of their own despair. Village men, women, and children attacked with pots, pans, pails, and bags of wheat.
The weapons of villagers are simple, but these weapons were enough to ward off Damon’s men. We had won our first battle of defense for we had used the element of surprise in our favor. Damon’s men did not expect a retaliation. They had not expected that simple villagers would stand up and fight for what they valued most. I had learned from Xena that all that is good is worth fighting and defending. Yet I also knew that Damon and his men would regroup and then return more fierce than they had been this time. Ferris was clearly upset that I had led Podedia into this war. He was fearful of what would happen during the next battle. Ferris decided that he was going to go and surrender, but I knew that a surrender would not lead to peace within Podedia for I had seen this kind of evil before.
Suddenly Damon rode into the village and declared that his men prepare to take the village. He scolded them for having been defeated by women, old men, and children. Damon was prepared to destroy my village, but then something spectacular happened. A spear came out of nowhere piercing through the first line of Damon’s men. Every one of them had been struck through the heart by the single weapon. Then it was clear to me where Meleager had gone. He had taken the money to buy the weapons needed to fight this ugly battle. Meleager continued to hurl spears at the enemy as he took out every line of men that stood before us. Then he was left with a one on one confrontation with Damon himself. I fought alongside Meleager hoping to help in any way that I could, but Damon took me down and threatened to slice through my sister, and I with a single hook for his hand.
Just when I thought that it was over for me I took advantage of the rake beneath my feet. I talked through to Damon telling him my feet were limp as I prepared to strike him with the rake. Just before he was about to strike I struck him in the back of the head with the rake beneath my feet. Damon released my sister and threw me violently to the ground. I looked up as he prepared to take my life, but I was saved by Meleager the Mighty. Then I acted rolling out of danger as Meleager took over. He kicked Damon and scolded him for attacking defenseless women. Damon turned away from Meleager talking to distract his foe. Then he reached for his dagger and whipped around to throw it at Meleager.  Meleager acted swiftly dodging the dagger marked for him.  He then pulled his sword into combat against Damon like a true warrior.
Meleager was brave, and mighty as he fought Damon. Yet Damon was tough and skilled. Damon took Meleager’s weapon and knocked Meleager to the ground. Just as Meleager was about to freeze in the face of danger I shouted out to him to rally his confidence. Meleager quickly acted as he kicked Damon’s sword high into the sky flipping his enemy over with his powerful legs. As Damon slammed down upon his back he had little time for his own sword plunged itself into his stomach killing the warlord instantly. For a moment I could see within Meleager’s eyes the regret that a warrior feels upon taking another life, but then I reassured Meleager with a smile.  Meleager the Mighty had defeated evil and that was all that was important. His win had saved more lives than it had taken.
Later that evening there was a celebration for Melaegar who seemed disappointed that he was being honored instead of Podedia’s warrior Gabrielle. Yet I was glad to see that he had returned to his mighty self for it had not been my sword that had taken Damon down. Meleager declared me to be the true warrior. Then he left, but there was still something unsettling within. I sat within the village tavern contemplating how I would tell Lilla that I needed to return to Xena. She would certainly be upset with me for wanting to leave again, but my heart kept telling me that I must go. Then Lilla approached me noticing my mood. When she asked to buy my thoughts with a dinar I told her not to waste her money. But then Lilla handed me my warrior gear a simple bag, bed roll, and staff. She told me that she knew what I must do. She would be sad to see me go, but she was certain that my heart would suffer if I stayed in Podedia. Lilla declared that it was my destiny to do great things alongside the warrior princess the way that I had helped save my own village from ruin. She knew that I loved her, my family, and friends, but Lilla said that I must live my life’s desire for I would regret it if I did not.
My sister was right. She was genuine and supportive. As always she understood me better than anyone ever could. I found it difficult to say good-bye, but it was comforting to know her love was behind me. And so I found myself traveling back down the wooded rocky path of the warrior life in search of Xena once more. Soon danger followed me once more as I met up with the same five rouges I had battled before. In fact, I found that they were in the same place that I had seen them before. In the canyon of the large boulders they awaited me. This time I was alone and they made note. Again they asked me to turn myself over to them without a fight. But I would not. I saw that they had improved their threat. Their cart now had a shield at the bottom so that I could not duck beneath it to safety. This time it was face the cart of sharp stakes without a possible escape.
My heart pounded, but I was ready as I battled against the two rouges behind me. I whipped around and knocked them with my staff. They fell to the ground in defeat. But the leader of the rouges gave his command and the wrath of the cart was released. As it barreled down the hill toward me I charged it without a second thought. Suddenly, I put down my staff and hurled over the top of the cart to safety. My action was followed by a loud crash and then a wave of relief came over me. Yet it lasted for only a short moment as the three remaining rouges pulled their swords ready to battle to the death. Just when I thought I was out numbered the sound of a sharp wisp charged through the air. It was Xena’s silver chackram that had swooped down into the canyon as it took off the sharp edges of each sword that challenged me.
Then I heard Xena’s battle cry as she flipped down into the canyon to join me in the battle. But the enemy ran fearful of their lives. They were certain that they could not go up against the wrath of the great warrior princess. And so I was glad to be on the road again. My heart was singing with the joy of knowing that my journey with Xena to do good was to continue. She was pleased to see how well I had performed under pressure alone. I was surprised to find that I would run into her in the very place that we had parted before. Yet she wasn’t for she had been on her way to Podedia to see how things were going. Then I was full of that warrior excitement for I had not frozen in the face of danger. I had stood alone with the confidence of a budding great warrior.

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

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

May, 48 B.C.

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

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

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

May, 48 B.C.

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

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

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

March, 48 B.C.

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

The Xena Scrolls: Scroll#11: The Black Wolf

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

January, 48 B.C.

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

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

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

February, 48 B.C.

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

The Xena Scrolls “Path Not Taken” Scroll#5

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#5:  The Path Not Taken

October, 49 B.C.

 

     There was once this feud between two families that had gone on for many centuries.  The families had been at war with one another for so long that one day they finally decided to stop fighting because no one really knew what it was that they had been fighting for.  And then one day there was this young handsome prince whose name was Agranon.  He was walking through the field toward the lake when he saw something so beautiful and vibrant that he found himself falling madly in love.  It was the reflection of the lovely princess Jana that he had seen.  She was just upon the other side of the lake and she looked up to see the most wonderful young man.  He had been the man that she had dreamed of since her childhood, but there was just one sadness within this story.

      Agranon was from her rival house the family of Colonous while the princess was from the family if Biochia.  The two could see how senseless it really was to be at odds despite the fact that both families had stopped the fighting so many years before yet to unite was still greatly forbidden.  Despite the ancient feud between to two families Agranon and Jana decided that they would be the first to prove that indeed the two families could once again become friends and to unite in the blessing of love.  As Agranon sat beneath the tree by the lake where the two had first met he declared that he and Jana would indeed have a wonderful story to share with their future grandchildren.  Jana spoke of how they could tell their grandchildren of how peace had finally been created under their special tree by the lake.  Agranon then continued by expressing that they could also tell the grandchildren of how one of their parents had been made in the very same place.

     Despite the joy shared between two lovers there was still darkness and war lurking around the corner.  If not by the two families themselves by a well-known arms dealer named Mezentious.  Mezentious had sent his men out to kidnap the princess of the family of Biochia for he knew that if he could restart the family feud there was certain to be a war.  And if there was to be a war then Mezentious would be back in business selling his arms at whatever price he chose to make money off of the hatred between two rival families.  Agranon was devastated by the loss of his beloved Jana and so he decided to seek out help in his quest to find his Jana. 

     After the success of saving a baby’s life and helping to restore  the kingdom of Gregor Xena and I found ourselves needing a bit of rest and relaxation.  We entered into a very dangerous city which Xena had said was the city of Trachis.  It had been well-known for the many inhabiting warlords and mercenaries there.  As we walked through the streets to find a good tavern to dine in men were fighting amongst themselves.  There was definitely not a sense of peace within the city walls.  It was like no other city I’d ever visited before.  There was evil and darkness lurking around every corner, but I still felt safe for I was alongside the warrior princess, and there was not one thug in Trachis that could take her down.

     When we entered the tavern there was an atmosphere like no other.  The food smelled great, but there were so many filthy old men.  Mostly they were drunk and many of them had been beaten up pretty badly.  It was probably because of their lifestyle, but it was their choice alone to walk the paths in which they had chosen in life.  I was just glad that Xena had finally chosen to walk the path of the innocent rather than to stay on the path of the evil.  Upon finding the only seats left in the tavern Xena and I were suddenly confronted by a young man with a large bag of gold.  He threw it down onto the table trying to make himself larger than he actually was.  I could tell that Xena was slightly amused by his greeting, but was not at all impressed.

     This young man with the bag of gold said his name was Agranon.  He spoke of how there was a war about to begin between the houses of Colonous, and Biochia.  Agranon wanted to pay Xena to help him obtain the ultimate prize within this war.  Of course Xena made it clear that she was not interested.  She told this young man how obvious and unseasoned he was at portraying the lifestyle of a mercenary.  Xena also told him that he was most likely in for a short life with a messy death.  Agranon did not care for his real reason for coming to Xena was that he needed someone to help him find and rescue his beloved Jana.

     Now Xena’s attention was held for this was not an army that she would be working for, but for the restoration of peace.  Xena had spent so many days in the past fighting for armies and creating armies that she wanted to fight for peace now.  This was a worthy cause that deserved her utmost attention.  However, Xena would not accept the bag of 500 gold dinars that Agranon had dropped down onto the table before us.  Instead she told him to give all of the gold to the many poor around the tavern and within the city.  For Xena that was payment enough.  She did not need money to prove her concern.  All she needed was a good reason.

     As Agranon went to complete his instruction by Xena she spoke to me and told me that I must stay within the tavern and wait for her to return.  She asked me to keep Agranon company which I could do quiet easily.  There were so many stories that I could tell him, and so much he could share with me about he and his love Jana.  Yet I was reluctant to let Xena go alone for she was going to have to pretend to be bad again.  I wasn’t so certain that she would be able to pull off this mission, but Xena assured me that many of the local mercenaries of Greece still knew her well.  They also still remembered how much of a tyrant she had once been and she would use that to her advantage.

     So Xena was off on her journey without me as I tried to stay patient and wait for her to return, but after many hours of entertaining the handsome prince I found myself feeling like I had to get involved.  There had to be some way that I could help Xena win this fight and to save the princess.  Then it occurred to me that Agranon and I could surrender ourselves to Jana’s father the King of Biochia.  If we surrendered ourselves willingly and without a fight then just maybe we could convince him of the truth of the entire situation and of Agranon’s undying love for his daughter. 

      It was very simple and easy to get captured by the Biochian guard, but once we got into the castle we were instructed that we would be meeting the executioner upon the sunrise the next day.  Now that was definitely not how I had envisioned my plan, but despite the failure of my plan Xena’s plan worked like a well-oiled wagon wheel.

     Upon arriving at the fortress of Mezentious she sent her trusty steed Argo off to wait for her beyond the walls of the fortress walls.  Upon entering Mezentious’s city she entered the nearest tavern certain to find the old crowd there.  As soon as she entered she found herself greeted with challengers who either hated her, loved her, or wanted to learn from her genius mind.  A small brawl ensued, but was quickly broken up by the warrior princess with many skills.  Once she had won back the trust of the crowd by telling them of her true intentions back in Lerna she was welcomed back into the loop with open arms.  As she told of how she ransomed the baby back to King Gregor a dark shadow from her past entered the tavern interrupting the show.

      This man was the warrior known as Marcus.  He had traveled with Xena in her early warrior days before she had been betrayed.  They had once had a strong passionate love affair, but it had been many years since their last encounter.  The last time Xena had seen him must have been at least 10 winters maybe more.  Marcus burst into the room with distrust of the warrior princess’s motive, but soon he was eased for the warrior princess charmed him into believing in her darkness.  The two sat down to a few drinks together and reminisced of old times.  Yet their joyful reunion was cut short for the great arms dealer Mezentious entered the tavern in a terrible mood.  Some of his men he had discovered were stealing weapons from him.  Mezentious was relentless in his pursuit of the traitors for he knew that there were two of them.  The first traitor was revealed and punished publicly in front of all of the men.  Mezentious then heeded a warning to the remaining traitor. 

     Once Mezentious left the tavern began to return to its normal activity as Xena and Marcus began to discuss profit.  Xena suspected that it had been Mezentious who had kidnapped the missing princess in order to start the war for his own profit gains.  Marcus at first tried to cover up for his boss, but he realized that Xena was just too good to leave in the dark.  He could see the potential of having Xena as an ally with Mezentious so he decided to introduce the two.

      Mezentious of course was quite uninterested in Xena’s presence at first.  In fact, he had been on his way to take the innocence of the young princess before  being interrupted by Marcus’s introduction of Xena.  Mezentious found himself irritated and gave the command to his surrounding guard to prepare to kill this most uninvited guest.  He did not want the competition to take away from his war.  But then Xena spoke up and told Mezentious that she was here for a profit, and that she could make sure that his profits alongside her were at least doubled.  Mezentious stopped and was interested for a short moment listening to the warrior princess.

     Xena continued on by telling Mezentious that the princess would be worth even less if she were damaged upon her return.  Mezentious laughed and then explained that he was just going to kill her anyway.  Xena then asked Mezentious to wait and to not let his passions get the best of him.  Mezentious agreed that it was good advice as Marcus explained that he felt that Xena’s words were worth every dinar.  His boss was confused for a moment, but realized that Marcus’s own judgement was clouded by his passion for Xena.  Yet Mezentious agreed to a meeting with Xena before going on with any more of his current plans to see if indeed the warrior princess was as great as Marcus had said.

      Marcus then took his old flame to the hot spring within the fortress walls.  He had taken her there in the hopes of reminding Xena of the passion they once had together.  It was obvious to Xena that Marcus had not gotten over her yet and never forgotten Xena.  She too still had a special place within her heart for this man though he was still on the wrong path.  For a moment she almost found herself lost in the memory of their passion as she was caught between the past and the present.  But then Xena’s senses were awakened once again by the screams of the girl.

     Next came the great meeting between Xena and Mezentious in which Xena would prove to him how valuable she could be.  She told Mezentious her reasons for keeping the girl alive.  Xena explained that by keeping the girl alive Xena herself could keep the war going on indefinitely meaning the profits would be much higher.  She explained that the Biochian army would hammer the army of Colonus within less than a month, but if her army fought for one side and then the other she could keep the war going making the stakes higher.

       Both Mezentious and Marcus were greatly impressed with this cool calculated idea,  Xena demanded in return for the efforts of her army half of the profits and weapons for the war effort.  Mezentious was intrigued for this well-known warrior woman was only asking for half of the profits.  His sources had always spoken of her as a greedy adversary.  This made Mezentious question her true intentions yet again.  Xena then called his suspicion with her own bluff by telling him that she would ask for more if he felt that she should be asking for more.  Then Mezentious dropped the subject for he felt that it was he who was getting the better end of this bargain.  But if that were the case then it was her loss and all the more for him to gain.

     Upon returning to the courtyard Jana was about to slit her own throat and jump off of the ledge of her cell up above.  She was quite passionate and fiery going against everything that Mezentious wanted from her.  Mezentious found himself becoming frustrated and impatient with this young girl.  He decided that he was going to handle this situation with a cross-bow, but before he could pull the trigger Xena reminded him of her worth alive.  She volunteered to handle this most annoying situation.  Mezentious again was intrigued yet thought this warrior woman’s actions to be a bit strange and unusual.  He then warned Marcus that he would kill the warrior princess if he had to, but only if she got in the way of his war.

     Soon Xena had reached the distraught princess.  Jana threatened to jump again, but Xena knew that this young girl did not really intend to kill herself.  The princess had made her first mistake by being overly dramatic with a knife and the threat of jumping combined.  Jana was disappointed that Xena nor anyone below had taken her seriously, but Xena calmed her by telling her that she had been sent by Agranon.  The young girl did not believe Xena and threatened to jump yet again until Xena pulled out the necklace that she had taken from Agranon back at the tavern before she had left.  Upon seeing the relic of her betrothed Jana’s trust had been obtained and Xena then instructed Jana to meet her in the hot springs when the moon was in the western sky.

     Later that night Xena broke into the weapons storage to look for a way to smuggle Jana out of the fortress.  She found a large wooden crate that would be the perfect size to carry the body of a beautiful princess.  The box was filled with arrows and as Xena began to remove them she was surprised by Marcus who had been watching her.  He was angry at first for she was betraying him by stealing weapons without his consent.  Xena’s only response was that she was checking the inventory to see what her army would be up against.  As Marcus was about to respond the nearby guards came busting in with Mezentious.  He had finally caught Marcus in the act and warned him one last time of where his loyalties lied.  Marcus’s excuse was to show Xena the inventory that her army would face, but Mezentious said that it was no concern to him.  Xena then spoke up reminding him that her only true concern was that she receive equal pay though her investment was not equal for it would be her men that would die.

     As Mezentious left Xena realized that it had been Marcus who had been stealing the weapons.  She then asked him to show her how he was able to get them out of the city.  Marcus took her to a deep well within the middle of the city’s fortress.  He then dropped a rock down into it proving that it was more than just a well, but a door to the outside world.  Xena was impressed with Marcus and he was delighted to show her his secret for he trusted Xena like he trusted no one else.  He began to share with her a beautiful story of how he had once tried to leave the darkness.  Marcus told of how he had always admired Xena for never killing the innocent women and children despite all of her other deeds.  Then he spoke of how after she had gone away from him that he saw another warlord kill a crippled child upon the request by the child’s grandfather to spare him.

      It was that experience that had gotten Marcus to think of the path not taken.  For a short time Marcus had tried to follow that path, but found himself unable to stay onto it.  This deep personal confession made Xena’s heart reach out to Marcus and love him even more for she understood his pain and uncertainty.  He then sat down beside her and told her that there was indeed something different about her for the old Xena would have killed him for sharing a story like that.  Marcus couldn’t figure out what it was that had made Xena seem as though she were so very different from before.

      A large part of the warrior princess wanted to share the truth with Marcus, but she was uncertain of his reaction.  She did not trust that he would understand and she did not feel that she could turn him back toward the path of the light.  He fell asleep leaning against her shoulder upon the well and he seemed so peaceful to her.  Xena realized that the time was getting late so she went to the hot spring to meet with Jana in order to rescue the princess and to walk down the path of the righteous.  When she arrived at the hot spring Jana was there waiting, but suddenly there was a vicious knock on the door outside.  It was the rascious voice of an angry Mezentious wanting to know who was inside.

      Xena acted quickly hiding Jana under the spring and dressing herself with a robe to cover her leather uniform.  When she opened the door Mezentious was caught off guard for a moment for her beauty was difficult to ignore.  She then told him that it had been Marcus who had invited her to the spring.  Mezentious complained that the timing had been inconvenient, but then realized that maybe his own timing had been better.  He decided that he was going to have the warrior princess, but Xena would not submit easily.  Mezentious encouraged Xena to continue on with her bath as he would watch with pleasure, but Xena made him feel pain for he could not have what his passionate desires demanded of him most.  She explained to him that the last time she had allowed herself to be caught up before in passion before a great battle it had almost cost her an entire war.  These words were powerful enough for Mezentious and he left the warrior princess to her bath alone.

       It had seemed unfortunate to run into Mezentious yet before leaving he had spoken of news about Agranon and his traveling companion.   Xena was told of how the war between the two families was about to start sooner than anticipated for Agranon was to be executed by the Biochian king by morning.  Of course, it was no secret who Agranon’s companion had been so Xena had to act quickly.  She took the princess to the wooden cart which had once held a cargo to kill.  Xena placed the squeamish princess into the empty cart to send her off with news to stop the war.  

     Yet as Xena prepared to send the princess off she was again caught by Marcus unsuspectingly.  This time he had realized what it was that Xena had been doing.  She had been lying to him for she had indeed turned to the opposite path.  When Xena tried to convince Marcus of how much she truly loved him and how sorry she was for not believing in him he threatened to shoot an arrow through the wooden cart.  Xena tried desperately to open his heart to doing just one good thing that would allow him to free himself from the darkness, but Marcus could no longer hear.  Xena could not allow him to kill the princess so she kicked Marcus to the ground taking the princess to the weapons stock room to hide.  There she prepared for battle as Mezentious’s men broke the doors down to battle the traitor.

     As Xena fought against them Marcus entered with his bow prepared to kill the young girl, but then Xena reminded him that Jana was no different from that little crippled boy whose death had once touched his heart.  And then Marcus realized what Xena had been saying and what she had been doing.  He approached the young girl and just as he reached her Mezentious entered into the battle shooting an arrow to ensure that his war would go on.  But Marcus acted with bravery and courage for he  jumped in front of the princess without a second thought.  Xena’s brave love took the arrow to the chest and fell down to the floor.  This broke the heart of the warrior princess and she angrily drew her chackram striking Mezentious in the throat killing him instantly.

     And so it had ended and the enemy had been killed, but something was still not right for why did  a good man have to die?  Xena ran to her lover’s side hoping to comfort him and share one last moment together.  She took his hand as he struggled to hold onto life.  He then asked her if that was the one action that she had been talking about which would send him down the path that he had always wanted to travel.  One of Xena’s oldest friends and the last of their kind was about to die in her arms.  It had taken him his entire life to be opened up to the light, but now the world was at a loss for he would never do all of the good that he had the potential to do.  Xena assured her old friend that indeed he had made the right choice though she could have saved the princess without his sacrifice.  Marcus didn’t care to lose his life for he was satisfied in knowing that he would leave this world doing good rather than doing the deeds of the darkness.  And then he died right there with a gentle soft smile across his face.  He was finally at peace and Xena longed to be there with him in the peace that death seemed to always bring.

      On the next evening at twilight the two kingdom’s of Biochia and Collonus mourned Xena’s loss and gave proper service to the brave soul that had saved their families from a needless war.  Xena was still stunned by her loss for it was the first time in a long time that she had felt her heart tremble with pain.  I was sorry that I had not met Marcus for he sounded like a noble man.  Life is an adventure meant to be lived for what other point is there?

    

Xena Scrolls #3 Dreamworker

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#3:  Dreamworker

September, 49 B.C.

     There are many lessons to be learned from the warrior princess.  I know that she can teach me, but convincing her of my value and skill is another story.  Earlier this morning I was exploring what it felt like to hold her mighty sword for I have never held a sword before until now.  I picked up the large piece and felt it’s massive weight and then wondered how she made it look so easy.  When Xena handles her sword it looks like it weighs nothing, but that is purely illusion.

     Then I looked at it and studied the materials that it was made of.  It certainly wasn’t bronze which is the typical metal of choice for sword makers.  This was a special piece like no other.  It glistened in the sunlight and it was hot to touch the metal part beyond the leather handle.  It was wrapped and intertwined tightly in design.  The design looked similar to her chakram design with small precious stones on the bottom of the handle which was gold-plated.  If I were a thief I know I could sell it for a pretty dinar, but I couldn’t do that to a friend.

     After studying the craftsmanship of the sword I slowly lifted it into the air as if I were about to do battle with the tree stump in front of me.  It had once made a nice resting place, but now it was an evil warrior that I had to kill.  I battled him bravely yet with difficulty in handling my piece.  Luckily he was not very agile and much slower than I.  Then I said a few choice words to him just before I went in for the kill.  Quickly I struck the sword down onto his head and split him into two pieces.  The battle was over and I had won.  That was until I couldn’t get Xena’s sword out of his head.

     About that moment was when Xena caught me playing with her weapons.  She scolded me for handling them so carelessly as she yanked the sword out of the broken tree stump.  I tried playing it off  by suggesting that I had been using it to chop wood like she had asked of me, but she could always see through me.  Xena acted like I didn’t know anything about using a weapon let alone a sword.  Of course I couldn’t because  I didn’t really know so I challenged her accusation of my nieve view of what a sword was.  She explained to me that I should never want to use a sword and that it should be only a last resort. 

       I pleaded with her to teach me how to use a weapon even if it wasn’t a sword so that I could learn to at least survive and defend myself when we did run into trouble.  It wasn’t like I really wanted to kill anyone.  But of course Xena couldn’t allow me to have my fun or my way.  I’d been traveling with her for about two months now and it had hardly been safe for more than a few hours at a time.  Instead she told me the four rules of battle and said that they were all that I needed to know about using weapons.

     Rule number one was to run if you could run which didn’t sound like anything I’d ever seen the warrior princess do.  In fact, it seemed very cowardly to me.  Rule number two was if you couldn’t run to surrender and then run.  That didn’t sound any better than the first one.  Rule number three was if you were outnumbered by your enemy you were to let them fight each other which sounded a little bit better, but rule number four was the most valuable.  Xena told me that she was confident that I could at least accomplish rule number four in battle which was to talk my way out of becoming a victim.  I thought about it for a moment and realized that she was right.  My words had gotten me this far so they must be good for something.  I had never thought of words being used as a weapon before, but it was an interesting revelation.

     The moral of this was that it was wisdom before weapons no matter what.  That I could agree upon because I could see how wise Xena really was and I admired her for that.  Then Xena continued on by explaining that the moment you kill someone everything in life changes.  She seemed very disturbed by that thought and almost in shame that she had to kill so many to do what she did.  Xena didn’t realize that she had been fighting for good for at least the past couple of months since I’d known her.  That was commendable in my eyes.  That was when I realized that I never wanted to know what she knew about life after the killing. 

     Then we heard the sound of Argo warning Xena of some enemies approaching.  I turned around to look and saw a band of five thieves approaching us.  They looked like trouble and they were indeed.  I asked Xena if this was the time to run and she told me that it was not time to run just yet.  So I stood behind her as she grabbed for Argo’s saddle and took out a knife throwing it into the ground behind a nearby rock.  It was concealed and out of view.  Obviously Xena had a plan, but I had not idea what she was thinking.  I had to figure her out.

     The ring leader of the group approached Xena candidly and smiled commenting on the beautiful day.  Xena’s response to his nasty smile was to draw her sword naturally.  That was definitely a normal Xena response.  Then she asked him in that dark and serious tone what he wanted.  He was very calm and light as he explained that he and his pals were just trying to scrape by in this evil world and occasionally it required that they take things from fellow travelers.  Then he demanded Xena’s horse, any gold, and jewelry that we may have had.  He was also partial to Xena’s attractive sword.  Then he demanded that Xena surrender or suffer the consequences. 

      Here’s the part that she used rule number two because she accepted his conditions of surrender.  I was actually shocked for a moment that she was even thinking of surrendering to these obviously amateur warriors.  They weren’t at all like the Draco’s I’d seen or like Spherus.  These guys were about as unintelligent as you get when it comes to evil, and definitely the bottom of the barrel.  But here’s the part that shocked me even more.  Upon accepting to surrender she called out to me and asked me to go ahead and take their swords from them.  Now this I didn’t think I could do, but hey it was a rare event that Xena had asked me to do anything exciting.  Then the five barbaric creatures busted out in deep laughter.  They did not at all believe in my ability to take them out.  Of course they were right in thinking that because I knew that I couldn’t take five men on my own.  Maybe one, but definitely not five.  Now that was something that I had only seen Xena do single-handedly and plenty more than five.

     The light moment only lasted for about five seconds and then suddenly the ring leader shouted a command to attack us.  The warrior princess took the cue and went into action.  She slashed her sword through one man then two.  They both fell immediately to the ground.  Then she moved behind her back to fight off a third man.  The sounds of the battle were fierce as the warrior princess was in control like a dancer upon the theater.  At this point I was feeling like there was something I should be doing, but I didn’t know what it was.  I didn’t have a weapon and everyone else had swords.

     Xena gracefully removed a staff from one of her attackers, and then another removed her sword from her unsuspecting hand.  The heavy piece crashed to the ground before me and I realized that this was my chance to help Xena.  Yes it was five men and she could probably handle them, but I couldn’t resist.  I bent down to pick up Xena’s sword and I held it up ready for battle.  Letting out an attempt at Xena’s battle cry I entered myself into the fight.  Suddenly it was real and two of the five henchmen approached me with their weapons.  They were closing in fast and I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know how to use it, and I realized that battling a tree is a much simpler process.

     I could see it in their eyes that they were ready to strike and take the breath out of me.  I was gripped with fear because now I had to choose.  Do I let them kill me or do I draw blood?  Just before I had to make that fateful choice I heard Xena’s battle cry as she flipped backward with the staff she had acquired and put herself between me and the enemies.  Then she knocked the two men down with one push forward with the weapon and slid to the ground going for her concealed weapon.  Then I threw down Xena’s sword.  It happened very fast and then I saw Xena’s knife hurling through the air.  The knife’s path met the chest of the ring leader killing him instantly.  It could have been much more painful, but Xena hit him straight through the heart.

     That was the moment that ended the battle and all of the four remaining thieves followed rule number one as they ran leaving behind the dead.  My heart was pounding through my chest harder than it ever had before.  I had felt a strange rush like no other and I found myself not ever wanting to visit that place again.  Yet the excitement was hardly over for the day.  As Xena and I left the scene and headed into town she revealed to me that someone had been watching us from a distance.  She truly was amazing for how could she know something like that.  I had to find out.

     As we entered town not much else was said between us.  I could feel Xena’s disappointment in me and I didn’t like it.  The tension was so great that I had to break the silence.  I told Xena that I knew that she wanted to tell me that the choice I had made was wrong, but I couldn’t allow her to be right.  Yet she knew that eventually I would realize that she was always right.  I hated that about her, but what could I do.  Then I tried to explain to her why I had made that choice.  I expressed to her of how eager I was to help her and she responded by making it very clear that my help was never needed.  She was able to handle everything on her own.  Her independence from me was difficult to take sometimes.  But I couldn’t let this go so I had an idea.  I told Xena that I would return back at the tying post after I went to pick up some salt port.  She was off to buy a sharpening stone anyway so she’d be plenty busy while I went weapons shopping.

     I had a little difficulty finding the weapons shop, but as soon as I did I was in awe of all the beautiful swords.  There was this one in particular lying on the table near the door.  It looked as if it had been crafted and traveled many days to get to its final resting place.  I began to pick it up and get a feel for its texture and design, but was startled by the shop smith.  At first he thought that I was a thief, but then he realized that I was probably pretty harmless.  In fact, he asked me a very unusual question.  He was shocked to see me in town and implied that I should fear the god Morpheus.  It was as if I didn’t know who Morpheus was, but I displayed my fine knowledge of legends and myths by explaining that it was the god of dreams that we were discussing.

     The peculiar gentleman seemed very interested to know that I was experienced.  Experienced at what I didn’t really know, but I was guessing it was of the sort of experience one might have with one’s lover.  But then he said that I wouldn’t be in his shop if I wasn’t experienced which meant that he was talking of battle.  Of course I did have to play it up and let him know just how experienced I was.  Though he didn’t have to know that I knew nothing of sword play.  He was very pleased to see that a young thing like me was skilled and believe me I was impressed myself.

     He asked me if I had lost my weapon of choice in battle.  Naturally I had to say yes although I had never had a weapon other than words which was working pretty well at the moment.  First he showed me a beautiful Albanian piece which had a very wide blade.  It was much wider than the one Xena carried, but impressive.  I picked it up with excitement for I couldn’t wait to handle it, but as soon as the smith handed it over to me I almost fell to the ground with it.  I needed something a little more petite for someone with my frame.  It wasn’t me.

     So then he took me across the shop and pulled out the cutest little weapon.  It looked almost like a bird with a point at the bottom.  He told me that it was a breast dagger.  It must have been designed for death by being pierced in one’s breast, but the gentlemen corrected me and showed me its function.  He gently pulled down the top of my dress and slowly slid it into the breast area.  I could see now what he meant.  It was a dagger held by one’s breast.  This was definitely my weapon of choice.  I could carry it without anyone knowing and when the right moment came I could use it to help Xena the next time we encountered into a big battle.

     When I returned to meet Xena she was preparing to leave town.  And when I asked her if she had gotten everything she needed she replied flatly that she had not.  She seemed almost annoyed and it was obvious that she wanted to leave this particular village in a hurry.  Then she looked to me in all my pride for I could barely conceal it.  She asked me what was wrong and naturally I hid my little secret.  Then she persisted and asked me why I looked different.  She had been talking about my suddenly enlarged breasts of course.  I tried to play them down, but to no avail because my little secret poked me in the breast and fell out of my clothes. 

     It was obvious the game was over yet I still tried desperately to play it off.  I suggested that it was amazing how one could find hidden treasures in old clothes.  It was obvious the warrior princess was not buying that one.  She took the breast dagger and put it into her own breast-plate for safe keeping.  Then there was a sudden interruption in our little game of wits.  Several mysterious warriors swept through the village.  Xena commanded me to get up onto her horse as always, but as I went to follow through I was kidnapped and taken to a strange place. 

     Upon awakening I was greeted by the head mystic in the valley whose name was Manus.  He told of Morpheus and of how I had been selected to be Morpheus’s bride.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering how it was that I had gone from Xena’s horse to becoming someone’s wife.  I was quite confused and anxious to leave, but Manus explained that I would not be leaving until I had completed three challenges.  I tried desperately to talk my way out of these challenges, but to no avail.  Instead I was to discover that the three challenges required me to fight to the death.  When I heard that word death I realized that I was in serious trouble, but where was Xena?

     Xena immediately went into action once she had realized that her encounter with a blind man at the halter shop had been a mystic.  She had bought the poor old man a halter for his horse instead of a sharpening stone for her sword when he had been rejected by the shopkeeper.  Xena was angry for the shop keeper had not told all there was to tell about the missing young girls around summer solstice.  He had been particularly interested in my experience as was the keeper of the sword shop when Xena had first reported the dead highway man.

      After getting little more information from the shopkeeper she seeked out and found the old blind mystic whose name was Elkton.  Elkton spoke of how each young girl kidnapped had been taken by the mystic order to be sacrificed for Morpheus upon losing their blood innocence.  Xena demanded to know how to find the mountain where the mystic order resided, but Elkton was certain that it would take Xena days to fight through the heavy guard that protected it.  He made it clear to Xena that she did not have days to find me, but hours before I would be sacrificed upon losing my innocence.

     And then he spoke of a brave warrior with a dark past.  He said that this warrior had been shown to him within a vision.  This brave warrior with a dark past was the only one who would be able to stop Manus and defeat Morpheus.  Xena insisted that she was indeed the one for the job so Elkton quickly prepared to send Xena into the fire of her dreams and with the key to unlock the gate.  Her spirit would travel through a dreamscape and be reunited with her body once it reached the other side.  However, it was a dangerous mission for she only had a few hours in which to accomplish this task and Elkton spoke of how Morpheus would use Xena’s mind against her to keep her from succeeding.  There was only one special oil that would allow Xena more time to travel through her dreams.  Elkton then sprinkled the carmaoil upon her body and sent her on her way.

     Once inside the dreamscape Xena found herself immediately challenged by its mystery and its darkness.  She found herself confronted by the evils of her past, but was only slowed by their interruption.  Xena took control of her dreams and continued onto the next challenge within her dreamscape.  She found herself revisited by the first kill and the most recent.  They were meant to haunt her spirit, but again she did not allow Morpheus to win and continued on her journey.

      And while Xena met her three challenges within the world of dreams.  I was presented with my first.  Manus sent me into battle against two skilled warriors.  He had given me a sword in which to kill them so that I could survive.  The room was quiet and eerie as I walked slowly down the corridor.  And then I heard the sounds of boots from both sides.  There were shadows lurking beyond the thin curtains which were the only thing that shielded me from death and blood.  The first man caught me by surprise thrusting his sword narrowly missing my ear.  I ducked and was forced to clash swords with the second dark warrior.  Yet his sword was much more powerful than mine for he took the point right off.  I found myself left with only half of a sword and then Xena’s words ran through my mind again. 

     My only chance for survival would be to let them kill each other.  Now that I could do, and so I began my plan to set them up.  Quietly I walked between the two veils and watched as the shadows came closer and closer.  Then just as the two shadows met I let out a rather large sneeze and dropped to roll out-of-the-way of battle.  The two dark warriors clashed instantly thrusting their swords simultaneously within each other.  And then they were gone and my pounding heart-felt relief for a short moment.  Yet my challenge was still not over for Manus returned reminding me that Morpheus would soon demand me to meet his second challenge.  Manus was surprised that I had not chosen to kill my attackers, but I had no choice without a weapon of my own.

      I was then taken back to my bedchamber where I was allowed to rest for a short while.  Upon closing my eyes I began to have a very strange dream.  In my dream I was pulling the petals off of a daisy trying to determine when and if I would be sacrificed by my captures.  Suddenly, I was interrupted by the sound of a pleasant voice.  It was Xena and she was dressed in the most beautiful purple gown.  She then asked me if I was real and I explained to her that she was the one that had entered into my dream and that I was the only one who could be real.  Xena was still not certain that I was real so she then asked me a strange question.  She wanted me to tell her something about myself that no one else could know.  So I told her about how I had been born with six toes on my right foot.

       Peculiar as it seemed Xena was convinced that it was indeed me sitting upon the bed with the daisies.  She then came and sat down next to me telling me that I could not kill as I passed through each of my challenges for if I did I would most certainly be sacrificed.  Our dreams had strangely overlapped and it was a fortunate thing for I could ask Xena what my other choices were.  She then told me to use what I knew, but I wasn’t certain that I knew anything really.  And then my dream began to fade away and Xena’s comforting words with it.  I called out for Xena, but I could no longer see her.  Suddenly, I was awakened by someone I did not care to see.  It was Manus and he was preparing to take me to my next challenge.  Once again I tried desperately to talk my way out of the challenge, but Manus would not allow it.

      So once again I found myself being released into a mysterious place where skilled bloodthirsty warriors lurked within.  This time it was a cave and in the middle was a large pit of fire.  Again I was given a sword, but now that I knew what it was for I threw it into the fire pit for I would not take a life.  And then three dark warriors appeared ready to kill me.  One carried a net with a dagger, another a spear, and the third a sword.  The man with the spear made the first move almost hitting me with his weapon.  But fortunately I was able to dodge it.  I then picked up the weapon and dismantled the shaft turning it into a staff.  I wasn’t really certain what I would do with a staff, but it made me feel like I had a chance.

      I began to hear Xena’s words once again within my mind.  She had said to use what I knew.  At first I was uncertain of what that meant until finally I remembered that I knew how to talk so I began to talk.  I talked the three warriors into fighting one another by using their egos against them.  The first warrior to step forward was the one with the sword, but the warrior of the spear took him down instantly.  It was a surprise at first, but now I was down to two against one.  The man with the net and the warrior of the spear.  As the spear warrior began to thrust forward toward me the net warrior took his knife and slit the spear warrior’s throat.  Now it was just me and my lone enemy.  He threw his knife at me, but I ducked barely missing injury.  The net warrior lunged forward and grabbed me preparing to throw me into the depths of the fire.  I kicked and screamed desperately, but then an amazing thing happened.

      His knife had come to a rest within a hot spring which exploded releasing the weapon back through the air and into his spine.  The net warrior then fell into the fire himself dropping me safely upon the ground.  My chest rose and fell frantically and my heart was pounding wildly for I had almost lost my life during this challenge.  And then Manus returned irritated that I had discovered that I could not kill if I wanted to stay alive.  He declared that Morpheus demanded of me the final challenge and that it would not have any options.  I would have to kill my attacker if I wanted to save my own life.

     As he took me to the next chamber I began to hope that Xena would be arriving soon.  And indeed the warrior princess was on her way, but she was confronted by her own ultimate challenge within the dreamscape.  She found that though she had found the exit she had not obtained the key.  Yet the key was just around the corner lurking within the shadows.  The brave warrior princess was then confronted with the nightmare which haunted her more than all of her past deeds combined.  It was the nightmare of her dark side that approached her and taunted her spirit.  Yet Xena could not be defeated by her darkness for she was too strong to return to it.  And so Xena confronted her evil side with acceptance as she left it behind for a life of good deeds.

     Soon I found myself facing my own final challenge before the mystical tribunal.  They had set up a trap of spikes which forced me into the clutches of my dark enemy.  And as I was forced to face him there before me was my weapon against him.  I saw the sword lying upon the floor and it looked so inviting.  It was the only thing that stood between me and death.  I had to pick it up and as I did I inched closer and closer to making that choice to cross over into the way of the blood.  My heart did not want to kill the warrior standing before me on the other side, but my mind did not want to die.  And just before I reached his clutches Xena burst into the ceremony through the walls like an olympic god.  My attacker was distracted and I made my move knocking him out with the handle of my weapon.

     Xena then fought off all of the dark warriors within the tribunal and defied the wishes of Manus and his council.  I was so relieved that she had made it in time to save me from death, yet so angry that Manus had forced me to make a choice that I did not want to make.  I then unleashed my fury upon him delivering a punch squarely upon the nose.  Xena was surprised for a moment to see that her innocent friend had so much fury within her soul, but smiled to see that I could be tough.  And so all had been restored by our adventure together through the dreamscape.  Elkton had been placed once again as the head mystic of the order, and all of the young girls of the village at the bottom of the mountain could live without fear during the summer solstice.

     Xena found herself filled with joy for she had done another good deed to go against all that she had done in her past.  As we sat by the water and contemplated our adventure together I confessed to her that I had come close to chosing to kill someone.  It was a feeling that I did not like and I did not want to peak into that realm of blood ever again for I could see that I too was capable of taking a life despite what my heart guided me to believe.  Xena then took a stone and threw it into the calmness of the center of the lake.  She spoke of how it rippled because it had been changed, but I reminded her that eventually the ripples would disappear and the lake would become calm again.  Yet Xena reminded me that though the lake would look the same in the end it would be forever changed because now it had a new rock at the bottom.  And then I realized what she meant.  No matter how many times she had done wrong.  It would never be redeemed for those wrongs would be a part of her for the rest of her life.  Her heart was forever in debt to those she had wronged.