The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #49: Destiny

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scrolls #49:  Destiny

September, 47 B.C.

3 months and 21 days since visiting Syra Callisto’s home.  3 months 13 days since Xena died at Mount Nestus.

We spend our lives trying to understand what our own true destinies will be.  Wading through the waters of the unknown we find ourselves often confused and drained within our spirits.  Though we do not consciously know our destinies there is always a part of us that holds the deepest truths within.  This confusion of destiny and of what direction the warrior princess was to travel had haunted her.  One day as she had found herself with Gabrielle near the place where Callisto was born.  She had taken Gabrielle with her to the valley where the village of Syra had once existed.  It was there that she had taken so many lives and tainted the spirit of one young girl.  The bard could read her friend well.  She could see how guilty Xena felt about the wrongs that had born upon Callisto’s most tragic loss of her family.

Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena.  She explained that though Xena had been the cause to Callisto’s own destiny Xena had changed.  Once a warrior of evil and of darkness, but now it was clear that Xena had turned toward light.  Gabrielle was proud of her friend and to see the ongoing growth that had been taking place within her friend’s spirit since their first day of meeting.  The bard was philosophical explaining that once Syra had been the location of great death and of awful destruction.  But on this day it had healed and it now held vibrant beautiful life once again.  Gabrielle knew that Xena’s soul could go through that same transformation for it had already begun on its journey.  Two winters had gone by since Xena and Gabrielle had begun their travels together.  Gabrielle was certain that they would share many more that way.

Then Xena spoke of how she needed to go down into the valley once more to confront the horrors of her past.  She hoped that there she would find the answers she seeked about her own destiny.  Gabrielle stood over the valley watching Xena disappear into the tranquility.  She waited patiently  for the warrior princess to return.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena would find the answers that she so desperately seeked.  The bard’s wait seemed endless.  And then after many moments had passed Gabrielle found herself kidnapped by a group of strange men.  They were almost not human and they did not speak the same language.  These people were of strange custom for they took Gabrielle to a sight not far from the valley into the woods.  There Gabrielle was tied to a relic which hung between two trees.  She was tied  alongside several young children.

The barbaric men prepared for a ceremony.  It seemed to be one of a sacrifice.  To whom they were sacrificing was not clear.  Maybe it was Hades for their relics surrounding the camp were of skeleton remains hanging from all of the trees about the camp.  In the center was a pile of wood, and rock.  There it seemed that they  would  place their fire.  As Gabrielle thought of how her situation would progress the warrior princess came storming into camp upon her trusty steed Argo.  She flipped off of her horse in style and was holding Gabrielle’s staff which had been robbed from her earlier.  Gabrielle watched as the warrior princess gracefully worked with the staff flipping it behind and over her shoulder then back around.  Xena used the staff long and swiped it across the two barbarians which stood between her and the victims.  Then she suddenly reached for her chakram and threw it cutting down every hanging relic and freeing all who were being held captive.  It was amazing the way that the chakram had sailed in a circular path across the site and then returned after one throw to the hand of the warrior princess.

Xena then called out to Gabrielle and instructed the bard to catch her weapon.  The warrior princess threw it across the battle to her sidekick.  Gabrielle used her most familiar and effective move.  She thrust the staff across grasping it firmly with both hands.  It moved forward and knocked down one of the enemies in front of her.  Then she used her favorite cross over move to rob the enemy of his balance.  Quickly the battling bard acted and took the other victims rushing them away from the heart of the battle and onto safety.  Xena stayed behind and continued on.  There were at least ten more barbarians to deal with and to disable.  She decided after fighting a handful of them that it would be better to finish the battle within a second location away from their relics.

She rejoined Gabrielle and the group only to urge the bard to keep moving.  And so the bard ran further down the path and just out of reach of the battle.  There she stopped to watch Xena finish the battle ready to step in just incase Xena needed her help.  Xena fought without her weapons.  She did her favorite running up the enemy’s chest move flipping and then kicking him to the face.  Xena quickly flipped into a tree above and then back down to surprise three more of the barbarians.  The warrior princess then finished off the rest of the group fighting in the center of a battle circle spinning quickly with agility as she punched and kicked through the lines.

As the battle neared its end one of the children from the group had stayed behind to watch Xena fight up close.  The blue-eyed boy could not resist the power of the warrior princess.  He emerged thinking that it was safe to rejoin his new found hero, but there was still a live barbarian ready to attack.  The barbarian took his knife and cut a rope hanging from a tree.  This released something deadly.  It was a large log swinging down out of the trees toward the helpless child.  Xena quickly acted and jumped in front of the young boy pushing him out of harm’s way.  But then it was too late.  The warrior princess was violently hit by the oncoming log which had gained momentum.  It slammed into her body and pushed her across the woods into a tree where she was crushed between the trunk and the log.

The remaining barbarians quickly approached their victim and Gabrielle knew that it was now that Xena needed her help.  Gabrielle entered into the battle slamming one of the barbarians from behind with her staff.  The blow had knocked him unconscious.  A second barbarian swung around behind the bard and jabbed her in the outer right thigh with his knife.  The blow sunk into the muscle quickly bringing sharp pain and cramping.  Gabrielle then took her staff and jabbed back as her leg gave out and she fell upon the injured warrior princess.  The battle had finally ended, but Xena was in terrible shape.  Gabrielle looked to her friend hoping that the damage had not been serious.  Yet it was obvious with blood running out of her ears, nose, and mouth that Xena was on the verge of being taken by death.

Gabrielle touched Xena’s face trying to revive her friend.  She called out to Xena whose eyes struggled to open.  Xena was aware that Gabrielle was there by her side as she struggled to instruct her friend where she must go.  Gabrielle was told that Xena had to be taken to Mount Nestus.  As Gabrielle tried to remember the way she was certain that it was too far to be reached in time.  With her injured leg Gabrielle knew that it would be nearly impossible to get her friend to Mount Nestus.  But Xena insisted barely within consciousness.  Gabrielle realized that she had to find a way to get Xena there.  No matter the pain or the danger Gabrielle had to take her friend to that far away place.  The bard whistled for Argo and then prepared a contraption using the relics and rubble from the barbarian camp.  Gabrielle and Argo then began their journey to save Xena’s life.

Xena had also begun a journey of her own.  It was a journey that would answer the question that she had been asking just before the battle against the barbarians.  It had all begun back in Amphipolis with Cortese’s brutal attack upon Xena’s village.  That day was one of many events that would shape Xena’s true destiny.  After losing her brother and many friends within that battle Xena made conquest her goal.  Yet it was conquest to protect her home rather than to conquer.  Though the young warrior princess had known early that in conquering one would more effectively protect her home.  The warrior princess had stolen and looted many villages along the way.  Syra had been one of them and sadly Xena’s army had burned it to the ground within its passion for conquests.  Certainly there were many riches to be gained, but there were also many enemies out there waiting to rob the young conqueror of her power.

After the events of Amphipolis and of Syra there was another day that connected Xena toward her destiny.  It was the day that her army had sacked the village of Nexous.  There they had obtained many riches yet they had also captured a soldier.  At the time he was of no identity yet he was dressed  well.  His armor was flashy and his defiance was hardly possible to overlook.  Xena’s soldier known as Tallus badgered the new captive for he felt the disrespect of the flashy soldier.  The captive did not submit to the fear which Tallis tried to overpower him with.  Instead the young soldier held onto defiance.  His confidence was amazing and intriguing.  He proclaimed to Tallus  that his capture was merely a barbarian.  This implied that Tallis was of less intelligence.  Tallis found himself offended and rose his sword after a beating did not faze the captive.  Just before he was to strike the captive Xena stepped in and saved the life of this most intriguing man.

He was of a different breed.  She had never seen someone so confident and so sure of who he was.  When asked why he did not even fear death the solider replied that he did not fear death for he knew what his true destiny would be.  Xena was taken by this answer and so she asked him what his certain destiny was.  And then the man revealed in a very forward manner that his destiny was to conquer the world.  The young warrior princess found herself slightly amused by this answer.   Then Xena explained to Tallus that they should not kill this soldier for he was a Roman nobleman and they could gain wealth from his capture.  She was certain that this man would fetch at least 20,000 dinars.  Suddenly the soldier intervened declaring that the Roman nobles would never believe that she had him within captivity if she asked for so little.  This bold ego driven soldier suggested a price of at least five times more than what Xena had suggested.  The warrior princess was again amused and sent Tallus off to be sure that the message sent would demand 100,000 dinars for this soldier’s release.  Though she was still intrigued and asked of a name from the self-proclaimed conqueror.  He then proudly spoke that his name was Caesar.  Julius Caesar he repeated with more conviction this time.  Xena shouted out to her comrades the name of the captive for the message.

Upon the next morning as she and her army set sail upon the seas.  They began to go through the riches which they had obtained the day before upon attacking Nexous.  One of Xena’s men opened a beautiful large chest and something emerged from it.  It was not gold, or diamonds.  This was a living person.  It was a skilled warrior.  The warrior was cloaked in disguise as he moved swiftly to take out his enemies.  He did not carry a single weapon only the power to disable.  His technique was to use pressure points.  No one could stop his wrath as he took down fifteen of Xena’s men.  He moved with speed, accuracy, and grace.  Xena had even fallen victim when she tried to take out this magnificent warrior.  The warrior princess was struck in the leg and unable to continue combat.

She watched as the warrior scaled to the top of the crow’s nest and just as the warrior swung onto the sails of the ship Xena threw two knives slicing through the fabric taking down the skilled warrior.  Her men quickly took control of the warrior as Xena rose from resting her paralyzed leg.  The warrior was then revealed to be a young woman.  She was beautiful and not of Greek heritage.  Caesar himself had been intrigued, but not impressed with her performance.  Just as Xena’s men were about to take the young girl’s life Xena halted her execution.  The girl pleaded for her life within her own language.  Caesar spoke to her presuming that Xena’s heart would spare the life of the lighting speed warrior.

Xena was again impressed by the nobleman.  He was highly intelligent and most definitely a future threat to her and her conquests.  This man was more educated, but had yet to prove that his skills matched those of the warrior princess.  She could see that both of these new captives could match her in a different way.  Each had skills that Xena seeked to obtain for herself.  The young Xena knew that she must learn from each of them their strengths.  And so she asked Caesar to tell the girl that her life would be spared if she would in exchange teach the warrior princess how to use the pressure points in battle.  Smoothly he spoke to the slave girl and then the girl spoke back agreeing to exchange her warrior skills for her life.

The girl was then escorted down into Xena’s cabin below awaiting a visit from the warrior princess.  As the crowd of men dispersed from the deck Xena again spoke with Caesar for she was still very intrigued with his certainty of knowing his destiny.  As they conversed he spoke to Xena with more knowledge.  He gave her more insight explaining how he had figured out the origins of the young warrior girl.  Caesar said that she was from the provinces of western Gaul.  He declared that there were three provinces in Gaul and that she spoke the Gaelic from the western province.  Caesar also revealed that the girl had probably originally been a stowaway from the land of the pharaohs for her light brown complexion gave away her birth place.  Rome was known for capturing people from the northern lands of Egypt to sell into slavery back in his own land.

Xena realized that indeed this Caesar had his entire life laid out before him.  Every detail had been mapped out within his intricate mind.  She was slightly jealous that someone could have that kind of greatness and power despite being a captive.  It was in that moment that Xena decided that she would get involved with Caesar.  Slyly she proclaimed that his next destiny of the moment would be to dine with her in her cabin later in the evening.  It was a lustful invitation as Caesar was freed from his binds.  And then she left him to contemplate her sinful beauty for it was clear that the young Xena enjoyed the sport of playing with a man’s heart.  It was a new challenge and a new conquest different from the ones she had always engaged in before.

Xena then went down to her cabin to learn from the warrior girl.  When she entered into her cabin Xena noticed that the girl was working to free herself and escape the chains of captivity.  It was obvious that she had done this many times before.  The girl had escaped slavery and been running from it her entire life.  Xena walked in so that the girl could see that she was present and watching the girl’s every move.  This slave girl expected punishment for all slaves were punished for attempting to escape.  But Xena was different.  She could see that the young girl was much more valuable as an ally fighting alongside her rather than in slavery.  Xena approached her fearful subject and then asked her softly to show her how to kill using the pressure points.  The girl showed Xena in silence, but spoke within her eyes.  She did not really want to show the warrior princess the power of pressure points.  Xena demanded that she show her upon her own neck for it was that point that could kill the enemy.  The pressure points in the legs and arms could only disable.  Xena wanted to bring fear into her enemies for they would be less likely to challenge someone they feared.  She had learned that from Cortese.

And so the slave girl did as she had been asked.  Reluctantly she quickly put the move of death upon Xena.  Xena was upset for her subject had done the move much too fast and she could not learn it if she could not truly see and feel it.  The young warrior princess asked her subject to take the move off and do it slower so that she could learn.  As Xena suffered her subject watched her suffer and did not move to release her.  It was as if the slave girl was irritated that Xena had wanted to kill rather than to defend.  Xena could see as her pain within grew that this girl contemplated taking her life for her decision.  Yet in the last moment the young girl took off the pressure and released Xena from death’s grip.

The warrior princess breathed heavily clutching her throat with relief.  She was disgusted with her subject for her clever joke.  And so Xena asked the subject to show her again, but this time on herself.  The young girl took Xena’s hand’s and placed her fingers upon the veins that would be shut down.  Quickly she pushed Xena’s fingers into the grooves of the neck and turned the pressure onto herself.  The feeling was a strange one yet Xena immediately felt the rush of power that it gave her.  She backed away from her subject and watched gleefully as the slave girl suffered and her fear rose.  Xena then contemplated allowing this girl to die for she had played such a cruel joke moments before.  Yet at the last moment Xena too decided that she would have mercy upon her subject.  She released the slave girl from death and declared that she too could play jokes.  That moment led to a most wonderful and loyal friendship between two young women though Xena had never known what the slave’s true name had been.  Xena had given her slave freedom, and her slave had given Xena the power to deliver fear.  It was an ironic twist.

Later that night Caesar finally came down into Xena’s cabin to exchange lustful excitement and passions with a young warrior princess.  He was intrigued by her looks for she was beautiful yet barbaric.  Xena was just the kind of person that Caesar felt he could never ally with.  Barbarians were the uncivilized beasts that he had to control and to conquer.  He had to add their lands to his own in order to build the ultimate empire for Rome.  Yet Caesar complemented Xena for the red dress she had stolen from another raid during her many conquests.  He realized that it was the only way that a barbarian would be able to obtain any kind of wealth or power.  It was unfortunate, but Caesar was not sympathetic.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_653

Then Xena knew for certain that she wanted to ally with Caesar.  She offered him the opportunity to be a part of her army.  Xena dreamed of a conquest with Caesar for if she were united with his intelligence, charisma, and charm she and the people of Amphipolis would always be safe.  Caesar found her reasons for conquest interesting at best.  Her passions came from within her heart and all that she had done was to protect those that she loved with a few laughs along the way.  It was a reckless existence he thought, but then he was asked of his driving force.  Caesar then explained to Xena his desire to be great.  When Xena asked him what made a person great he explained that it was only achieved by a chosen few.  He knew for certain that he was to be great for it was part of his destiny.

Caesar’s confidence was dangerous, but it was what attracted the young warrior princess to him most.  The two shared in a passionate affair together for several months while Xena and her sailing army awaited payment from Rome for Caesar’s return.  And then one day their passions were separated for Rome came to retrieve its prize general.  As Caesar bade his farewells to Xena she asked him to promise that he would return to her.  Caesar promised his lover that he would indeed return to her in time.  As Xena watched her love leave her behind her heart-felt the pangs of separation.  Just as Ceasar left the shores to return to Rome he saluted his loving partner with an honorable Roman salute.  And then the warrior princess was certain that she would indeed see her friend again.     xena_s2_destiny_dArc_727

Many seasons went by as the ebb and flow of life for the warrior princess and her army continued on.  They continued their lustful conquests conquering Syra along the way and many other helpless villages.  And after each conquest she and her army would return to sea sailing within the tranquility of Poseidson’s ocean.  And then the day finally came when Xena’s separation was no more for her love had returned to her as promised.  The young warrior princess’s heart leapt with joy for she would be with Caesar once again.  Her aimless life of conquering others was seemingly over for she would be a part of something that would build an empire.  It was in the night that Caesar returned.  Xena and her young warrior friend stood upon the bow of the ship as Xena watched him returning to her.  Her excitement clouded her mind as her friend warned her of Caesar’s true intentions.  Yet Xena was certain that Caesar would never go against her for they were in love.

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     Finally Caesar’s great ship docked with Xena’s and the two found themselves face to face once again.  The moment was silent and long for neither moved toward the other.  There was almost a slight tension in the air as one of Xena’s men drew his sword.  But Xena insisted that Caesar was indeed their friend.  Then slowly the two approached one another as all watched their reunion.  Xena’s heart felt a powerful love within it.  She had so much to give and so much to do for her lover.  There was total admiration and she was prepared to sacrifice for him.  When they finally approached they looked into each other’s eyes and prepared to share in a passionate kiss.  Caesar gently moved for his lover and then as their lips were about to touch he drew his dagger and took Xena into his custody.  He ordered his men to fire upon Xena’s army and to  kill them all.  This battle of betrayal ended quickly for without Xena’s leadership her army was helpless against the powerful Romans.

As Caesar prepared to take Xena and her army away he had not been able to find the young slave girl.  When he asked Xena of her loyal friend she declared that her friend had betrayed her and she had been killed.  It was a punishment fit for the crime and Xena’s heart was now broken for she had been betrayed by her passionate lover.  Caesar did admit that he indeed had feelings for the warrior princess during their affair before, but his feelings were stronger for Rome.  His love for Rome outweighed his lust for the warrior princess.

As Xena’s dreams revisited her earliest past Gabrielle and Argo had finally reached the Strymon river, but Gabrielle did not know where to go beyond there.  She was uncertain if Mount Nestus was north or south of the Strymon.  The bard desperately tried to bring her friend to consciousness long enough to find out which direction they must travel.  It was clear that Xena was delirious.  Gabrielle was also finding herself tired and weary for her injured leg was slowing them down.  Despite the pain and the exhaustion Gabrielle finally continued on north of the Strymon with Argo leading the way.

Of course Xena’s dream had not ended.  On the morning following Xena’s capture she and her army were taken to the same beaches where she and Caesar had parted before.  Caesar had prepared 135 crosses to kill every last man within Xena’s army.  They were all tied and ready to be escorted to their deaths.  As Caesar admired his work alongside his officer Brutus he explained to him that in order to defeat a woman such as Xena one had to divide her passions from her senses.  He called this technique divide and conquer.  He had taken Xena’s heart and separated it from her mind leaving the young warrior princess helpless against his wrath.

Then he approached Xena as she was strung up to her cross and sent into the air to suffer.  She suffered inside and now he was going to kill her.  So wounded now Xena wanted to die for if love wasn’t real then life wasn’t worth living.  Caesar then gave the order to break her legs for it would be the fate of all who had conquered alongside Xena.  The Roman soldiers sent the mallet crashing into Xena’s legs disabling then forever and robbing her of all that she had ever been given in life.  Her pain was so great that her soul became numb.  And once each man’s legs were broken Caesar and his men left them all to die.

Yet there was a force of goodness left for late into the night Xena’ s loyal friend broke into camp and took out the few Roman guards left behind by Caesar’s army.  She did not kill them for her power was never used in that way.  The young girl then freed Xena from her binds and certain death for a second time and took the weakened warrior princess to the top of Mount Nestus.  There Xena was greeted with kindness by a healer named Niklio.  Nicklio quickly went to work on the injured woman for her legs had been shattered.  The skilled healer reset the broken bone fragments as he spoke the name of the slave girl upon his lips.  For the first time Xena knew who her loving friend was.  Her name was M’Lila and though Xena was torn apart inside her hope was restored for a moment.  Her loyal friend had been the truth of love while Ceasar had been the betraying love.  For several days Xena was cared for by Nicklio and M’Lila as Caesar’s men searched for the escape barbarian.

Nicklio found himself impressed by Xena’s ability to heal for her body was gaining strength faster than he had anticipated.  His healing techniques were in using special needles to bring the feeling back to the damaged limbs and feet.  As Xena’s body was healing so too was her heart for M’Lila was there to love the broken warrior.  M’Lila stayed by Xena’ s side as the warrior princess recuperated and though they did not speak the same language their loyalty and love for one another held their souls together.  Yet even love alone could not defeat the darkness of conquest for it came back to haunt the warrior princess.

Just before she was to return to full strength Caesar’s Roman guard had found her.  They burst into the home of Nicklio and began their wrath of destruction.  Nicklio was knocked unconscious as the Roman’s prepared to take Xena’s life.  One of them held a small cross-bow and aimed for the warrior princess.  But M’Lila’s loyalty was so great for her friend that she sacrificed her own life for that of the warrior princess.  Xena held her friend in her arms as M’Lila passed onto the world beyond leaving Xena behind.  Upon the death of goodness came the birth of hatred.

Xena the warrior princess then fought with vengeance against the intruding Roman soldiers.  She killed them all without mercy and gave the last man a signature death using the moves taught to her by the deceased M’Lila.  As the last Roman solider perished within his last 30 seconds Xena declared the birth of her own darkness with a new purpose in life.  It’s purpose would be the total destruction of the world for it held nothing, but darkness.

Finally, Gabrielle and Argo had reached the top of Mount Nestus.  It was late in the night and cold.  Snow fell upon the ground softly as the bard collapsed with exhaustion and physical pain.  She could barely move when Argo continued on pulling the body of the warrior princess forward toward the healing house.  Gabrielle rose from her anguish and continued forward finally reaching Nicklio’s door.  She desperately knocked hoping that someone would answer her cries for help.

The door finally opened and it was Nicklio.  He recognized the warrior princess and knelt down to observe her state of health.  Gabrielle could only beg and plead with him for it was obvious that Xena was indeed in bad shape.  The bard knew that her friend was close to death despite her own hypothermic illness.  Nicklio quickly brought the body of the warrior princess inside who was barely breathing.  Gabrielle continued to plead with Nicklio to do something for her friend.  But Nicklio refused to do anything for Xena for it was only Gabrielle that he could tend to now.  And as Nicklio aided the bard in repairing her injured leg and restoring her body temperature to normal Gabrielle watched her friend.  Her nerves would not allow her to sit still and her heart could not stop feeling the need to help Xena.

Finally Gabrielle was able to return to Xena’s side.  Nicklio knew that Xena was going to die, but Gabrielle had not yet accepted this fate for her friend.  She could not accept that Xena would leave her behind alone.  Gabrielle for the first time was feeling very lost inside.  A part of her was seemingly separating itself.  As the desperate bard tried to revive her friend she begged for Xena to wake up again, but the lifeless warrior princess was now gone.  She demanded that Nicklio do something, but he looked to the bard regretfully unable to rescue her from her pain.  Gabrielle sobbed uncontrollably unable to regain composure.  She cried on by Xena’s side for hours waiting, but Xena had already gone.

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#48:  A Necessary Evil

September 18, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #47: The Quest

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll# 47:  The Quest

August, 47 B.C.

….Xena I know you can hear me wherever you are.  I know you always told me to be strong, but I can’t be, not now.  You can’t leave me.  I know its not your time.  I can feel it in my heart.  I just feel this emptiness I’ve never known before and it scares me.  Xena above all just remember your destiny.  Remember it and fight.  Fight to come back.  This world needs you.  I need you.   For my destiny is to be alongside you.  I’ve known this since Thesaly and you know it too.  Come back to me my dearest friend for I am lost without you.

Every night I see it happen again and every morning I wake up wishing that it were only a dream.  My unbearable pain began when you took me to Syra the home of my worst enemy.  You wanted so terribly to understand why.  You wanted to understand why you brought your army down into that valley and why so many had to die.  You blamed yourself for so much, but I know in my heart that you were only confused and young.  I tried to comfort you by telling you that though the valley of Syra had once been a place of great death and destruction it had changed and become a place for vibrant life once again.  My heart was certain that you would be able to change too.  It was confident that your heart would heal from its own unbearable torments from your past.

As I watched you ride down into the valley to face your past there was peace in my own heart for you. I knew that your own peace of mind and heart would come through for you one day.  But then I was suddenly taken by those barbarians and prepared for sacrifice alongside those innocent young children.  Yet you came for me as always and you saved me from death once again.  Your battle against them was flawless except for in the last moments when I had made another mistake.  I had been so busy watching your flawless warrior skill that I allowed one of those children to get too close to the battle and the danger.  Before I could act he found himself nearly facing his own death prematurely.  As always you bravely stepped in front of him and did not allow him to die.  You acted with your warrior instincts instead of reacting with too many thoughts.  My own reactions put you into danger as you sacrificed yourself and your own life for that of the innocent blond haired boy.  You had felt that his life was worth more than yours.

The moment was horrifying for me knowing that there was nothing that I could do to stop it from happening now.  And so you took the blow and began your journey toward death.  As I stepped in to protect you from the remaining barbarians I was wounded, but it was only a wound of the leg.  It was only a wound that would one day heal.  Yet this wound in my heart now is so great that I am more lost now than ever before.

As I prepared to take you to Mount Nestus where you said we should go I tried to wipe it all away.  I tried to wipe away the blood that flowed out of your ears, and your mouth, and your nose.  There has never been a time that you had looked more seriously injured than in that moment.  Argo even sensed your death approaching.  She was strong for me for she knew that I needed her to be.  After traveling almost all night long I asked you if we should go north or south of the Streimen River.  You mumbled and I thought you said north so that is which way Argo and I took you.  You were right for we did get there early in the morning snows.

I was so tired and exhausted from traveling all night, but Argo kept me on our quest.  And finally when we reached your old friend Nicklio I was certain that you would be okay.  Yet Nicklio wanted to repair me first though I tried to tell him that it was not me who needed his help.  He refused to help you for he could face a reality that I was unwilling to realize.  Still I can not accept it.  Your death was not supposed to happen that way.  Not without me and not now.

I cried alongside you through the day for I could not leave you.  I know that you could hear me.  You could hear my every thought.  Everything my heart ever said to you and everything my mind ever thought.  Xena I miss you.  But now I know that no matter how many tears fall from my eyes and down my face none of them has the power to return you to your life’s place.  So I am preparing to take you home.  But this journey is even more difficult than the journey to reach Nicklio for the word has spread through the land very quickly that you are now dead.  I promise you that I will get your body back to Amphipolis again no matter what it takes.  I shall die to fill your wishes.  You belong home with your family next to your brother in Amphipolis I know.  But I wish you would come back.

This afternoon as Argo and I have traveled toward Amphipolis.  We were confronted by five henchmen.  They were the usual kind that you always defeated with barely breaking a warrior sweat.  These men angered me for they did not respect you the way they would have if you were still alive.  All they wanted was to profit from my loss and your death.  You would have been proud for I stood bravely to defend you.  I have promised you in the past that I would bury you next to your brother.  And that is where you will go no matter what.  I may only be a small young village girl, but you have taught me well.

As I fought them I did not think.  I only used my feelings for you to guide me.  But you made sure that I did not have to fight them alone for you sent Iolas to help.  I didn’t really need his help to fight our enemies, but I did need him.  I needed Iolas to comfort my wounded heart, and I thank you for that Xena.  Sadly, I must admit that for a brief time I have felt anger for your choice to leave me behind.  My heart was not ready for this life challenge alone.  There were so many things that I have left unsaid to you.  Like how much I truely love you, and how much I appreciate your teaching me all of the lessons I’ve learned from you.  It was after telling Iolas how I was feeling that he released me from my anger.  He reminded me that though I had never said those things to you while you were here with me.  You can still hear me now.  I was comforted and ready to continue on toward Amphipolis reminded that even in death you can hear my thoughts.

I want you to know that Iolas was sad for you too.  Even though you had hurt him in the past and tried to break up his wonderful friendship with Hercules he too still loves you.  He shed tears with me and then told me that he must go.  Iolas wanted to return to Hercules to make sure that the news of your death did not get back to him without first hearing it from Iolas.  Hercules loved you too.  Iolas was certain that he would take our loss hard.  Yet no one loves you more than I do.

After Iolas left Argo and I alone again we continued on and found ourselves deep in the amazon forrest.  It was scary traveling without you for I’m not yet as skilled as you.  There are still things that I cannot sense, or hear, or feel the way that you always do.  I’m still amazed at how you could know that someone was following us from so far behind.  Your skills are truely brilliant like the light I have felt within your heart.  Argo of course began to fuss before I realized that we were being followed.  So I stopped and stepped forward declaring that those following show themselves.  With relief it was only a group of our oldest friends.  The amazons came sailing out of the trees just like they did the first time you took me to meet them.  I  remember how excited I was and how I didn’t understand what being an amazon was all about.

Then I remembered that you had taught me that amazon symbol for peace.  So I declared myself peaceful and they did something very special.  Though you never thought that you deserved the respect and love of the amazons they too love you.  I watched them honor you in silence as they placed their swords upon your sarcoughagous.  Ephiny was with them and I was glad to see her.  It was comforting to be surrounded by friends in your abscence.  Ephiny expressed her sorrow for my loss and invited me to take you to the amazon camp.  There they were prepared to honor you with an amazon funeral fire.  Yet I did not feel that you would have wanted that so I told Ephiny that I was going to continue onto Amphipolis.

She could see that I was suffering inside and Ephiny urged me to at least stay with the amazons for a few days.  I told Ephiny that I would stay for a little while, but only because I needed to talk to Queen Melosa.  Without you I know I need to find a new life and so I thought that maybe Queen Melosa could help guide me in your abscence.  Ephiny then broke the news that Queen Melosa had also been killed.  She had been killed in royal combat like the one you had enguaged in to unite the centaurs with the amazons against Krykus.  My heart could barely take the pain of your loss and to find that Queen Melosa had been taken was a shock for me.  And then I asked Ephiny who the new queen was.  She looked to another of the amazons that I had not met the last time we had come to amazon lands.  Her name was Velaska.  Velaska had been the one that had challenged the Queen to the royal combat.  And as you know Xena it is a fight to the death.

Veleska did not spare Melosa with mercy the way that you did.  She argued that her combat against Melosa had been ruled by the tribunal as a fair defeat.  But Ephiny seemed displeased about this.  Yet she was also pleased that I had returned for by amazon law the Amazon Princess is the next in line to take the mask of the queen when she passes.  Because of my right of caste Ephiny was delighted to announce that I was now the rightful queen of the amazons.  I’ve suddenly found myself more lost and confused than before Xena.  I don’t know what to do.  My heart says that I am not ready to be an Amazon Queen.  Last time we were here I learned the responsibility that a Queen must carry and it was more than I am ready for.

With my wounded heart I have decided to join Ephiny and my other amazon sisters for I need to mourn.  Yet I feel that I am being pushed foward suddenly into a life that was not meant to be for me right now.  Ephiny has explained to me the truth of Velaska’s challenge to Melosa.  Melosa had adopted Velaska as a step daughter when her mother had been killed in a battle against the centaurs before you and I had come.  Velaska had challenged Melosa once before, but was unsuccessful.  Because Melosa had been her new mother she had been spared the penatly of the challenge.  Yet Melosa banished Velaska from the amazon nation for her defiance of her mother as punishment.

After you and I had come to the amazon lands Velaska returned.  She returned to challenge Melosa once again.  Only this time if she lost Melosa would have had to take her life.  I know in my heart that Melosa did not lose because she was less skilled or less of a warrior.  She lost this second battle against Velaska because of her love for this child though Velaska had truely been the child of another amazon.  Velaska has taken advantage of Melosa’s love for her and that is why Ephiny felt that the challenge had not been a fair fight.  Ephiny explained to me the reason that Velaska wanted to be queen.  She revealed that because Velaska’s true mother had been killed by a centaur Velaska did not agree with the new alliance.  If Velaska had her way and continued to reign as queen then Ephiny, and her son Xenan would have to make choices.  It would be impossible for them to live with either nation for she is an amazon and he has been born a centaur.

Ephiny has me thinking about my responsibility now, but I’m still not confident that I would make a better queen than Velaska Xena.  She has been an amazon since birth while I’ve only been an amazon for only ten short seasons by a rite.  I’m so confused Xena that I’ve decided to hear out Velaska’s side just incase Ephiny is just over reacting.

As I walked with Velaska today Xena I could feel her ambition.  It  is driven by something other than what drives Ephiny.  Ephiny’s intensions are driven by a mother’s love for her son while Velaska’s intentions are clearly driven by vegence.  Velaska tried to talk me out of chosing to accept the queen mask.  If she had been a true leader she would have allowed me to make that choice on my own.  A true amazon sister would have trusted in me to make the right choice.

Though the right choice for me would be to allow Velaska to continue to reign as queen for she is indeed much more experienced and better trained than I.  Yet my heart tells me that the right choice for the amazons is for me to embrace this huge responsibility and take the queen mask.  I know I am not ready, but my intensions are more noble than the intensions of Velaska.  If she were to continue to reign as the queen I am certain that the amazons and the centaurs will be at war once again.  All that you and I have done to unite them in peace will be destroyed and I can’t let that happen.  Not now.

Xena I’ll always love you, but I know I have to let you go.  I have always thought of you as my home, and since you have left I  have felt so lost.  Maybe my new home is here.  And so I think I will tell Ephiny that I am going to accept the queen mask.  Not only for your legacy, but for my own purpose.  Know that you will be an amazon sister in death for you will have the proper funeral fire that you deserve.  You will always be honored and remembered by the amazon nation and by the centaur nation.  But after your amazon funeral know that I will keep my promise.  I will take your ashes back to Amphipolis.  And that is where I will finally let you go.  I will say good-bye and then I shall return to the amazons and rule as their queen.  Your memory will always be my guide.

Upon preparing for my ceremony I have been nervous yet there is a sense of excitement for I do indeed have a home.  For the first time in days I am feeling confident of my direction without you Xena.  Proudly I will walk through the ceremony and stand before my sisters and accept their honor to me.  But I promise that I will not abuse this power or their trust in me.  I will use it to benefit the good and to fight against what is wrong.  There are so many people who have power in this world that should not hold it.

I have returned from my masking ceremony.  Xena look.  They have made me their queen.  Me the little girl you found in Podedia.  It’s time that I let you go.  You see I have to find my own life.  Just as you were searching for yours.  You know there are two kinds of tears.  Tears for those who leave you.  And tears for those whom you never let go.  And I won’t say good-bye to you Xena.  For we shall be together again one day.

Before I go let me tell you what happened.  I was taken before my sisters and presented with the mask.  Velaska waited for me to make my choice.  She was certain that I would chose her and forfeit all of my rites.  But I did not do that, and as I began to accept my queenhood before the amazon witnesses she took vegence upon me for my choice.  Her act was a violent one for she had thrown her daggar steeling the mask from my grasp.  It was an act of disrespect.  A true amazon sister would never show selfish vengence against her own queen.   Now I am certain of the choice I have made.  All of my sisters were as shocked and surprised as I, but Velaska did not stop there.  She tried desparately to deface my name and Ephiny’s name.  Velaska called me a fraud and Ephiny a lier declaring that neither of us could be trusted.  It was true that Ephiny had been the only witness to Terreis giving me her rites, but she is honorable.

It was in Velaska’s moment of defiance that  I decided to take control and demonstrate that I am indeed the right choice for my sisters.  I took the queen mask and the knife down from their resting place on the wall behind me.  I held both of them out.  Then I asked Velaska to choose.  This was her last chance to prove to me that she could be the right choice.  If she had chosen to take the mask first then I would know that I should step down, but if she chose the daggar then it would prove the truth of her intensions.  And so as every amazon was silent.  My sisters watched.  Velaska stepped forward and made the choice that I was certain she would make.  She chose the daggar before the mask.  And so I had proven to my sisters that though I am not as well-trained I am the right choice.  Velaska left camp after that for I accepted my duty and my rite.  There was a wonderful welcoming and celebration for my return.

It is much later now Xena.  When I returned to see you just one last time before your funeral I caught Autolycus the king of theives trying to steal your body.  He left me a bit confused.  At first I was angry for I was certain that he had come to profit from your death like the five henchmen that stopped me a few days ago.  But then he told me that you were in his body.  He said that it was you who wanted to steal your own body.  In my fit of anger I did not listen, but now I am left to wonder.  Maybe everything that he said was really true.  I need to know Xena if you are still here with me.  Please show me a sign.

I am so excited.  My hope has been restored Xena.  Today I saw you.  I mean I saw Autolycus.  He has broken out of the amazon jail which was hardly unexpected considering he is a theif.  But when he jumped upon your sarcoughagous as it began to burn in the fire he hurried to save your body from being destroyed.  My sisters began an attack for his intrusion, but then he whistled for Argo like you do and he had your chackram.  I watched him do the amazing flips that only you can do and he threw your chackram catching it like only you.  That was when I knew that it was true.  That was when I realized that it really was you.

I had no other choice so I left behind my sisters to join Autolycus to find you and to save you.  He explained everything to me.  Autolycus told me of how you had been with him for several days.  He told me of how you had given him his inspiration for stealing the daggar of Helios.  It is the daggar that is the key to your safe return home to me.  I want to thank you for showing me that you are still with me.  Your comforting words through Autolycus and the vision of us together has given me new strength inside.  I must admit that it was a bit strange to find myself opening my eyes kissing Autolycus, but it was really you I know.  Now I am going to send your sarcoughagus down the river like you had asked so that the amazons will not find it before we make it to the ambrosia.

Sadly Xena I must tell you that time is running out.  Autolycus and I were followed to the temple where the food for the gods is kept.  Velaska does not yet know that the daggar of Helios is the true key to the ambrosia.  I think Autolycus still has it stashed away in his boot.  You should know that though the amazon nation is now divided over your death and rescue many of them are behind you including Ephiny and Eponin.  Unfortunately Autolycus has now been returned to us in the jail.  Velaska has beaten him and broken his arm, but it is only a minor break and can be repaired.  Autolycus is truely amazing.  On the outside he appears only a thief for hire, but on the inside he has a truely caring heart.  He is committed to helping you Xena.

You made a good choice when you chose Autolycus’s body.  He has become so involved in your rescue that he has used his unusual skill for picking locks and freed us all from the jail.  It was amazing the way he picked the lock by using only a small metal piece that held together Eponin’s clothing.  Of course he was his usual seductive self, but I can overlook that flaw.  And after we escaped we fought our way through those loyal to Velaska so that we could return to the temple of ambrosia.  I exepect to find Velaska there as well.  She’ll want the powers of a god.  I’ve sent Ephiny and the others to fetch your body from the river to save us time.  They will meet us at the temple and I’ will get you the ambrosia.

Xena this experience has been like no other.  When I reached the temple Velaska was there, but your spirit witin Autolycus was growing weak.  Velaska threatened me with the daggar of Helios, but then you stepped into me and helped.  The feeling of being one with you was warm, and caring.  It was passionate to fight a battle with your spirit inside of me.  I never knew that part of you.  I am glad that we have had the chance to connect in this way.  Our battle was a memorable one for me.  We fought Velaska upon the ropes and I found myself moving in ways that I never thought I could.  I can see now why you enjoy the thrill of a battle so much.  Yes there is your guilt, but your passionate love outweighs that.  When the battle finally ended and Velaska fell to the ground upon the trap of spikes below.  I felt your pain.  You didn’t really want her to die, but there was nothing that you could do to save her and to save yourself.  She had no intention of letting you come back to me.  And she wanted to kill me.

As everyone who witnessed our battle together watched the Ambrosia fall from its place to the ground  into the fire.  I could hear their disappointment.  But you and I knew that you had saved just enough to bring you back.  It is amazing how you have every last detail mapped out within your mind as you go into a battle.  You truely are the greatest warrior who ever lived.  I don’t care what the other legends say.  Of course when you left my body I felt the emptiness again though you had left me with the ambrosia that would return you to life.  Ephiny and the others had brought you to me and so I opened your sarcoughagous.  I placed the small bit of ambrosia into your cold lips and hoped that it would be enough to bring you back.

We all waited for a long moment and wondered.  There was hope, but our disappointment grew when you did not awaken.  Of course all that we really needed was patience for the ambrosia finally did work its magic and brought you back to me.  It was wonderful to see you again.  To look into your blue eyes and to hold you in my arms once again.  I missed you Xena.  It was the hardest week of my life without you.  Please promise me that you’ll never leave me again.  Don’t ever die without me.  I know in my heart that your true destiny is with me and mine with you.  Never ask that question again for you now have the answer and the truth.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll #46: The Price

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Podedia

Scroll #46 :  The Price

June, 46 B.C.

     Their day began in the calm quiet comfort of the rural wild where no one lived and no villages existed.  Deep into Gaul territory they traveled to find what Xena had hoped would be the best fishing conditions for the season.  It seemed that the warrior princess had a pattern to her madness.  Not only did she know where to migrate, but she knew exactly when to find the best catches during every season in every part of the known world.  Gabrielle was not quite as fond of fishing as her best friend, but she decided that on this day she would make it a point to learn the fine art of fishing.  At first she began slow unable to land a bite at the end of her fishing stick.  Xena was a natural, but Gabrielle already knew this considering she could catch a slimy eel with her bare hands without breaking a sweat.  There was something extremely unappealing about that thought as the bard stood on the banks of this rural river and tried patiently to wait it out for at least a sign of life at the end of her pole. 

     After several hours had gone by the bard was about to throw in the staff once more in this battle of man verses fish, but Xena would not allow it.  She was determined to succeed at proving that even a farm girl could learn her warrior crafts and techniques.  Soon after the sun had hit over head the fish began to bite with a vengance.  Of course for the warrior princess it was easy and she had been landing catches along the banks all day.  For Gabrielle the moment of truth finally came as she struggled to reel in the big one.  Xena instructed the bard coaching her through every move.  To move with the fish was to be the fish as Xena called out that the fish was moving in from the left as he tried to escape to the right.  The bard’s muscles were tensing with excitement as she could see his giant head popping in and out of the rough river waters.  He was a strong one she had to admit, but the determination was strong and so the battle raged on between woman and fish until finally the adrenaline pushed its limits allowing Gabrielle to hoist the giant fish into the air over her head and onto the bank.

      The fish flopped violently about having to accept his defeat as Xena was pleased with her pupil for the effort and accomplishment.  As Gabrielle dashed off behind her she knelt down to free her victim from the line.  The battling bard felt a great deal of new confidence and for the first time she felt that fishing was a true adventure.  Then she declared to her fish friend that though her defeat was sweet it was meant without harmful intensions.  Xena just scoffed at the bard’s philosophical side basking in its own triumph.  The warrior princess asked that she not talk to her food and then Xena moved onto the next moment as she threw her own line back in.  Gabrielle had finally freed her new friend reminding him that he would be going to the elysian fields in her stomach later on, but that it would be a far better place than here on the violent earth. 

       With that the bard threw down her lunch and ran back to the edge of the water for more excitement and adventure as she cheered herself on.  Suddenly all was great and well as Gabrielle complemented Xena for her choice in fishing venues.  The fish certainly were biting better than ever here.  Gabrielle wondered if maybe it was because they were the first people on earth to ever fish in this spot.  Xena’s admiration for her friend could be felt in the air as she explained that the fish felt that way.  In fact Xena went as far as to say that the fish seemed to be jumping willingly out of the water.  Gabrielle pressed her advantage allowing herself to interject some philosophy into Xena’s life.  Yet as Xena threw another fish onto the bank she grabbed it by the line and shook it in the bard’s face reminding Gabrielle of the day that Xena would not stop throwing fish into her face.  Cold, wet, and slimy were not the words that Gabrielle was about to use to be  philosphical.              

     Instead she chose to ignore Xena’s interruption.  Then she expressed her vision of how she felt that everyone came from the oceans just like the fish.  She felt that the fish were people in their own way just waiting to reach out for that magic moment to touch their human family.  Just before Gabrielle could finish her statement she found herself struggling with yet another of her brothers in the water as she was reeling him in reaching out to grab him until suddenly someone grabbed back. 

     The bard was shocked by the sudden burst from within the water.  It was not a fish, but a man whom had grabbed her.  He was badly injured as Xena reached in alongside Gabrielle to help bring him to dry land.  The man would not let go of Gabrielle’s arm as he held it with a death grip.  Gabrielle was terrified at what she saw protruding from within his chest.  A large metal ax was lodged deep into his chest.  The man wheezed to grasp a breath as he tried to speak.  He spoke of a garrison.  His words were broken as he struggled to get out an important warning.  The man said he had been seeking help.  His final words were desparate within his eyes as he struggled to speak within his last breath.  He spoke of the horde.  Gabrielle watched as the man died right there before her.  Death had never seemed so fearless.  His death grip released Gabrielle’s arm as his body fell limp onto the bank. 

      Gabrielle was still terrified and shocked.  Her mind and heart were full of confusion.  She had never heard of horde.  She did not know what it was.  Gabrielle looked desparately to her friend for the answer.  Xena’s only words were a command for the bard to get her things.  Gabrielle wanted an answer to her question for fear of the unknown was spreading through her mind quickly.  Xena snapped for Gabrielle to move and to obey the command for there was an urgency to vacate quickly.  The bard ceased her arguement and ran for her staff and her leather scroll bag hanging from the trees just behind them.  As Gabrielle looked back over the water she saw something worse than she could have imagined.  There was not just one dead man with an ax in his chest, but hundreds.  The dead men floated like a school of fish down the waters of the river from the north.  Gabrielle’s mind could not process the horror fast enough.  She felt stunned and barely able to move for a moment.  The only comfort she could find within was the thought of Xena nearby.  She whispered Xena’s name as Xena approached Gabrielle’s position to survey the situation.  It was more grim than the warrior princess could have hoped.  Gabrielle found the courage to move her legs, and to move closer to Xena.  It felt safer somehow.  Xena’s lips released a bit of unexpected panic.  Quietly Xena was anquishing over the dead as if somehow she had been responsible for them.  Gabrielle hoped to receive information from the warrior princess.  Her heart fluttered hoping that they could be helped, but Xena confirmed cyrptically that they were beyond help.  Xena continued by explaining that the dead men were of the Athenian infantry.  Xena surmised that they must have been surrounded. 

     Gabrielle waited patiently, but with great fear and anxiety for Xena to continue her short quick explanation.  The bard wondered how it was that Xena was certain that she had already known their fate.  Xena suddenly revealed that they worked in this way.  Who they were was still a giant mystery to the concerned bard.  The warrior princess stated that they too were surrounded now.  Gabrielle was desparate to know what it was that they were surrounded by so that she could survey the landscape for it.  She desparately needed to know what her eyes searched for.  The answer soon came just off the banks and to the right.  Gabrielle reacted to the sounds of boats knocking up against the shore.  She saw what looked like giant ape warriors.  Yet they were men.  Their heads were full of dark thick hair yet their chests and legs were carefully maintained.  The ape men were painted all over with white, black, and red body art.  Their clothes were finely crafted out of thick animal furs, and some of their clothes were decorated with human bones.  The canoe boats they rode in were built sturdy out of nature’s best trees.  Upon the stern and the bow were human skulls screaming of danger.  Some of the ape men had primitave jewlrey painfully pierced through their noses.  Their eyes were raging with fire, but it wasn’t hate and it wasn’t vegence.  It was the fire of primal survival and of fear.  The bard’s reaction was to call Xena to action with her sword, but Xena stated that her sword would do nothing to stop the advance of the horde men.  Xena’s next command was out of fear which was something Gabrielle had never felt from the warrior princess before.  It was obvious to the bard that for the first time she had ever known Xena to be afraid for her own survival.  Xena’s command was to run and then she pushed Gabrielle into action.

     Gabrielle’s feet carried her quickly back toward the forrest as Xena followed quickly behind.  The bard found her legs leaping and bounding like never before.  Her heart raced quickly for she barely noticed a single breath from within.  She felt like the prey hunted by the beast.  Just behind the first line of trees there was a small clearing within the foilage.  Gabrielle’s feet stopped abruptly beneath her when her eyes caught sight of the largest horde of them all.  The only one to be decorated in full red body art he appeared mercilessly out of control.  It was as if the red paint possessed him to lust for the kill.  He wore the most elaborate of nose ornaments.  It was the bone of a large beast.  Gabrielle’s eyes met his, but there was no understanding to be found.  It was like two souls with different languages unable to connect with sensabilities only fear.  Gabrielle called out to Xena unable to decide what to do next.  Xena approached from behind only to find her worst fears to be true.  Indeed the two friends were surrounded by the wrath of the horde.  Suddenly it was time to fight for Xena was without her sword.  The warrior princess’s survival instincts kicked in as she grabbed a large heavy branch from the ground using it as a staff while Gabrielle fearfully tried to hold back the group in front of them.  Xena quickly defeated the three which had followed in from the river grabbing Gabrielle and commanding her to return to the river. 

      The Warrior Princess and the Battling Bard returned to the banks steeling one of the two vessels which had brought the enemy to them.  Leaping into the large canoe boat Xena shouted out another command to dig in hard.  Gabrielle did not argue knowing that Xena had the command.  These creatures were something even Xena did not understand.  The horde sloshed through the water on foot in their leather skin boots while some of them followed in pursuit on the second boat.  Xena’s voice was desparate as she commanded Gabrielle to pull harder.  Gabrielle pulled every bit of strength she could from within the rush of adrenaline that flowed through her arms hoping to get away from the beasts as their voices raged of foreign frieghtful sounds.  Their language was seemingly nothing more than a series of ugly harsh grunts.  Each sounded more threatening even if it may have been otherwise.  Gabrielle kept pulling harder each time Xena shouted out the command.  The bard could not resist looking back to see if they were gaining any distance between them.  

     Suddenly Xena pulled her chackram hoping to slow the advance of the horde as she deflected it off of a rock upon the bank and then off of a tree back into the canoe boat in pursuit of them.  The chackram thankfully returned to the warrior princess who had succeeded in slowing the advance by damaging the enemy’s boat.  Gabrielle watched as it sank while the men within it scrambled to abandon ship.  Suddenly from in front of them Gabrielle’s ears caught the sounds of defeat as the one with the red face screamed out echoing through the land.  He did not like defeat as he swung his strange moon shaped weapons upon their chains threatening death upon the warrior princess and her companion.  Gabrielle called out to Xena hoping the warrior princess would have a solution to the danger just ahead.

      For the moment it seemed that both Xena and Gabrielle had escaped the grasp of the horde.  Xena ushered them onto a hidden place along the river bank where they could pull off and rest.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena could tell her more about the horde and about how to deal with them.  As they sat in the eerie quiet of the afternoon the air was thick with humidity and heat.  Everything around them seemed stale.  Even Xena’s mind was affected by it.  As the two pulled out of the river they carried the canoe to a large fallen tree hoping to conceal their current position until they could gain some kind of advantage.  While Xena’s mind worked on the solution her heart told the tale of her first run in with the horde.  The first time she had ever taken her army to the west she had met up with them.  She had sent a scouting party out ahead to look for a mountain pass.  Her scouting party had been trapped in the ravine below when the horde made their move down upon them.  All Xena was able to do was watch from above helplessly as the massive army of beasts reigned down upon her men.  Xena watched as her men desparately tried to fight them off, but could not match strengths against them. 

       The warrior princess was as cryptic as ever as she told her tale of death and ultimate survival.  Gabrielle could sense the regret in Xena’s voice as if had only been in the day before that Xena had encountered the enemy.  She spoke of the ugly voices of the horde and the agonizing screams of her men.  Xena had spent the entire day trying desparately to reach her men with the rest of her army, but by the time they had massed within the ravine the horde had disappeared into the shadows of the evening.  The only thing left of her scouting party were bones.  Their flesh and muscles had been torn from them and taken by the horde.  They were tortured alive until they had been skinned to death and to nothing.  Gabrielle’s fears began to rise as she imagined these pictures in her mind.  They were almost impossible for her to comprehend.  She hoped to understand what the horde were for men did not do these horrible things.  Men killed, and men destroyed, but they never tortured other men in this way.  Gabrielle hoped Xena could give her a comforting explaination to all of this, but the truth was that Xena could not.  Xena was scarred by her past experiences with the horde and it was obvious that their presence now was nerve wracking for the seasoned warrior. 

      Xena struggled to stay focased as she explained that fighting one or two alone would indeed be difficult, but to fight a large party of them would be suicide.  It was written all over Xena’s face and Gabrielle knew it.  She knew that she would have to find her own strength somewhere in order to cope with this unpleasant ordeal.  The bard only hoped that they would find a way out together alive.  There had never been a moment more grim than this.  Even Callisto was nothing compared to the savage beasts that lurked about out there.  Gabrielle thought there had to be more to these creatures.  They seemingly had souls although even the bard’s heart could not connect.  She suspected that they wanted something, but that was a deeper mystery than even Xena could master.  It was clear that the warrior princess was in complete survival mode out of fear and necessity.  The warrior princess was seemingly no longer talking to Gabrielle, but to herself outloud.  Xena was plotting their next move.  Her memory told her that the horde hunted like a pack of dogs only they were equipped with the capabilities of man surrounding their prey until they would make their move to attack.

      Xena’s horrific memories were strong with angry emotion.  Her old frustrations were simmering to a boil as she rose from the resting place and threw the ax weapon she held tightly into a tree.  This weapon she had taken as they had escaped was seemingly Xena’s only comfort despite Gabrielle’s presence.  Xena’s frustrated grunt said it all.  At this point the bard had decided that Xena’s fears and frustrations were clouding the warrior’s mind.  It would be Gabrielle who would have to ground them this time.  The bard was up for the challenge if it meant saving their lives.  Xena suddenly moved toward the banks deciding that they had to move within the moment.  When Gabrielle thought for a moment she decided that the quickest way would most likely be the river.  Xena rejected the idea immediately reminding Gabrielle that it was indeed true that the river led somewhere, but where the horde would be waiting they were unaware.  Gabrielle realized that Xena was right, but she was not so confident that Xena knew how to get them out by the end of the night.  Xena’s next words were grim as she told Gabrielle that things would get worse for her plans to escape would require something Gabrielle could not expect.  The bard moved her eyes about hoping to see whatever it was that Xena saw, but to no avail.  She would just have to follow blindly until Xena could get them to the next safe place.

     Back into the boat they went following the river as Gabrielle had hoped they would do.  The only sounds that could be heard were the uneasy silence between the friends, the waves of the water crashing up against the side of the boat, the oars pushing softly through the water, and the secadas surrounding them on all sides.  The senses had to be heightened in this way in order to catch the sounds of the horde if they were still out there.  Gabrielle hoped that the river would soon save them from certain torture and death, but she knew deep down that they were still out there.  She could hear their breaths under the sounds of the water and soon the sounds of the suffering followed.  Just to the left bank over the water there were more men from the Athenian army.  The six men were barely alive still suffering greatly as they cried weakly for the goddess Athena to have mercy upon them.  They were bound to crucifix type contraptions in the shape of diagonal crosses.  They suffered greatly and Gabrielle could not bare to hear their cries any longer.  Her impulse was to save them before there was nothing left to save, but Xena snapped back rejecting the idea.  Gabrielle argued that they were crying out for the goddess Athena.  They could not ignore Athena’s wishes.  Xena again rejected Gabrielle not believing that Athena had dispatched the fates sending them to help the suffering men.  Gabrielle did not care about fear for she believed the fates were wise as was Athena.  Xena snapped back again reminding Gabrielle that there were too many to save for they would not be able to save themselves.  The fates had already decided death would come to those men. 

     Gabrielle’s arguement had led to their reveal.  The horde had been waiting for them and suddenly they appeared all around them.  Hidden from beneath the water the horde popped out and hidden in the dark evening forrest they came.  Their axes began to hurl through the air.  One nearly took Gabrielle’s life almost lodging itself through the side of her head.  Xena’s reflexes blocked death’s intension for the bard as she used her oar to stop its path.  Suddenly more axes came flying as Xena urged Gabrielle to paddle faster.  Yet the bard soon found herself robbed of even her paddle by one of the axes which struck it at the base.  Gabrielle was desaparately freightened now as she paddled with her hands helplessly. 

       The sounds of a battle beyond control were raging about as the voice of a man could be heard from across the water.  One of the Athenians was trying to make his escape as he dove into the water and swam toward the canoe carrying Xena and Gabrielle.   Gabrielle looked up hoping that he would make it.  She could see that he still had strength left to swim halfway out and so she urged Xena once again to try to save a man in distress.  Xena finally caved in begrudgingly to the bard’s heartfelt desires despite the risks they were now incurring to rescue this man.  Gabrielle reached out as Xena steered the canoe toward him.  The bard grabbed hold of the man whose weight quickly slowed them down.  Soon the enemy could be heard just behind them in another canoe with their voices raging ready to strike their slow prey.  Gabrielle shouted out to Xena that they enemy was closing in fast.  The man then urged them to let him go for they would capture them all.  He knew that he was to die.  Yet Xena would not let him accept his death now. 

      All that could be heard was the suffering moans of the man they had now rescued and the angry voices of the horde on all sides of them.  Xena then warned of a new problem.  Just ahead they were approaching a dead end.  It was a giant waterfall that the river had led them to.  Now they would have face the horde.  Xena called out to Gabrielle commanding her to jump at the edge of the shore where the waterfall met.  The warrior princess hoped to spare Gabrielle a treacherous death by the horde.  Yet Gabrielle would not accept this command from Xena.  She would not leave her friend only to be saved by the gods to travel alone.  Gabrielle could not bare to think of the regret that would follow knowing the terrible fate of Xena the Warrior Princess.  If Xena was to die a torturous death then she too would follow her friend until the end.  Gabrielle’s loyalty would not faulter despite the risks and the agony that was certain to follow.  The bard looked about to see that the horde were clammoring to get at them.  It was certain.  Gabrielle prepared her mind for the pain and the suffering she would soon have to endure.  If this was what Athena and the fates had planned she would face it all with courage.

     Xena argued with Gabrielle, but Gabrielle’s mind was made up.  The warrior princess tried to argue that she would be unable to fight the horde worrying about Gabrielle.  Yet Gabrielle did not care for she was going to fight alongside the warrior princess.  She would not allow Xena this fight alone.  As all hope was dwindling away Xena paddled up toward the shore preparing for the terrible end.  Yet from beneath the ground upon the banks more Athenian men popped up from their positions ready to fight against the hunters.  There was a sense of relief which swept over both the warrior princess and the bard as they dragged their Athenian victim to the safety of healthy infantry.  The infrantry shielded them with a counter attack upon the horde who were unsuspecting of the Athenians’ ability to regroup.  As the three pulled up to the bank Gabrielle shouted out to the Athenian men for their assistance with the injured man.  She helped them remove the man from the side of the boat while Xena jumped into the battle to assist the Athenians.  The horde were out numbered now that the Athenians had shown up and Gabrielle felt more confident in her safety.  Upon letting her guard down she ran back toward the boat to grab her staff and her leather scroll bag.  As she turned back toward the battle Xena was just steps in front of her shouting out to duck.  Gabrielle acted without a second thought as Xena used her whip hurling an ax into the chest of the enemy approaching from behind out of the water.  The horde man fell into the lap of his comrade in the boat and then they retreated.  Gabrielle’s heart stopped for a moment knowing that her mistake was in letting down for a moment.

     Twenty-four Athenians had come to fight against twelve horde.  It seemed to the bard that the power of two men were needed to fight one horde man.  The horde had only retreated because they found that they were out numbered.  These creatures had strategic intellengence.  It was impressive yet scary for it meant that the danger was extremely serious.  Gabrielle was only begining to understand Xena’s deepest fears.  The Athenians formed around their injured and the strangers they had rescued in their own ambush against the hoard.  There was a bit of comfort in this until they reached the outer walls of the Athenian fortress.  As the leader Mercer warned for all to watch for a counter ambush Gabrielle saw that the battle field surrounding the fortress was littered with  dead hoard men.  Death on the field here was fresh and unkind.  Yet there was not a single dead Athenian left behind.  The bard hoped it was because the army was strong, but once they entered passage through the gates Xena and Gabrielle found the remnants of what used to be an army.

      Mercer quickly ushered his men into the fortress and immediately commanded them to get back to manning the battlements in preparation for another attack.  There was seemingly no time for rest for the obviously weary men.  The man they had saved was dying upon the ground as he called out to the soldier Mercer.  Gabrielle leaned down hoping to comfort the fallen man who was now barely able to speak.  He struggled for breaths in the way that the first man had whom had died.  Mercer whom had led the ambush upon the hoard approached suddenly hoping to comfort his dying soldier.  The now dying man pleaded for Mercer’s promise to stop the wrath of the dangerous hoard.  Soon the man’s last breath escaped from his body and he fell into death’s arms as did his comrades before.  Mercer appeared staunch yet touched by the death of yet another soldier.  There was a sense of defeat and of frustration within his pale blue eyes.  It was as if he was on his last crutch of hope.  With another man to die before him his inner strength as a leader was diminishing.  Yet he quickly closed the door upon his own humanity and gave another shallow command.  He asked that this body be thrown to the pit with the hundreds of others that had already been collected.

      Gabrielle looked to Xena for hope for Mercer had none left.  None of his men held onto hope either for as Mercer gave another hollow command to get back to the walls another man approached defiant of him.  It was an older experienced soldier whose hair was silver with battle memories.  The man’s head was weakly bandaged as if his temple wound was as fresh as the dead man on his way to the pit.  An old soldier who had no more strength spoke with more conviction against another fight and another battle than to hope for life beyond the walls of the broken fortress.  Mercer pushed the hobbling man to the ground out of anger yet desparation to regain control of his men.  The man begged again fearful for a his slow torturous death that he was certain would come for him yet Mercer ignored the fearful unreasonable pleas.  He only barked out the same command as before to get back to the wall.  Then Mercer walked away standing as tall and strong as he could despite the weak foundations within. 

     Suddenly it seemed hopeless to the bard that even these men could be any help in aiding a desparate escape from the clutches of the barbaric enemy.  Gabrielle looked to Xena for hope wishing that Xena would be able to comfort her with warrior confidence.  Yet even Xena could not offer this.  Xena’s next statement was factual and firm at best.  She explained calmly yet harshly that the men within the fortress were just as dead as the men outside on the river banks.  Gabrielle could see it within the eyes of her friend that there was still little hope despite their having escaped the hoard for the moment.  And then Xena left Gabrielle’s side as if entranced by the serious challenge that faced her and the bard.  There was more of a chance within the walls to put together a survival plan with more force and more men to fight, but getting them to fight another day was going to be the issue for they had already given up.

     Gabrielle decided that she herself needed to survey the situation in her own way.  She followed one of the men to his battlement and sat along the wall hoping to get a glimpse of the souls within the men who were of a different language.  After squatting along the wall peeking over into the scene of death below the bard could not get the visions out of her head.  She kept hearing the hoard men below screaming out for “caltucca.”  It sounded important, but what it meant she did not know.  Some of the men below were not dead, but still suffering from the pain and anguish brought upon them in their defeats in battle.  Those were the men Gabrielle’s heart felt for.  She wished deep down that she could help them, but it was seemingly too risky to try for no one seemed to understand them.  Not only that, but Gabrielle found herself listening for the sounds of danger as her ears caught the danger of a large ax weapon flying toward her face.  She looked to her right to see the blade just moments away from its target.  The bard slid down behind the fortress walls avoiding the close call.  The constant threat of danger and of death interrupted any thought of reason that may have been invested over the hoard. 

     Gabrielle’s chest rose and fell violently out of adrenaline, confusion, fear, and relief.  It was all so difficult to grasp.  The man next to her did not offer any comfort for all he could do was remind the bard of how the hoard could not be seen for their stealth.  When they would strike no one knew.  They were just out there shouting out “caltucca.”  Gabrielle’s mind was brought back into focas with that word caltucca.  What did it mean?  She was desparate to know for it could hold the key to the entire mess.  The man’s answer was a typical soldier’s reaction.  He was certain that it was the name of their god of war whom they were calling for.  Then he kept repeating it as if he were engulfed in it and his own insanity.  At that moment Gabrielle decided that she could not stand his company any longer.  As she rose from her position on the walls she caught sight of the warrior princess who had obviously scouted out the entire fortress by now searching for the solution to their current problem.  Gabrielle was pretty confident that the warrior princess had most likely already formulated some kind of plan, but the bard was not so certain that these men would be contributing much. 

      The bard explained to Xena that the men seemed prepared for death.  It was as if they did not care anymore.  All had given up and without hope there would be no chance for life.  Xena confirmed the bard’s fears yet she was not going to lie down and die for the hoard.  She assured Gabrielle that she would die a warrior with a sword in her hand fighting until her last breath.  The bard did not doubt this which was some what comforting, but it meant that even Xena had resigned herself to death in some way.

     Gabrielle followed Xena who led her right back to the wall where the insane man still slouched and pelted the wall with small pebbles.  He was beyond saving yet Xena’s approach was unexpected.  She suddenly barked out a question to him.  She wanted to know if he was taking a break.  His response was candid and defiant.  The soldier stated that he was breaking from reality where he chose not to live now.  Xena’ s next question was obvious.  She wanted to know if he would be ready to grab his sword in the event of an attack over the walls of the fortress.  The man looked to her as if she were joking rather than being serious.  He paused from his pebble throwing for a moment to explain what was obvious to him, but not to the warrior princess.  The soldier explained that there were not enough men, food, or water to put up a decent defense or an escape against the hoard.  His skin was seemingly crawling with fear as he shuttered at the thoughts of emminant torture the bard could see running through his mind.  The man was right in saying that they were surrounded, but to allow an easy kill for the enemy was not an option for the warrior princess.

      Xena tipped her boot kicking up the soldiers sword grabbing it with her left hand using her right hand to yank him to his feet by the shirt.  The man seemed stunned that a woman could be so strong and so persuasive.  She began barking out commands as if she were the one in charge.  Then Xena explained to him why it was impairative for him to do his job.  She was certain that dying at the hands of the hoard would be more horrific than any other way of meeting death’s hand.  Xena was determined not to see another man skinned and tortured alive the way her scouting party had been taken from her so long ago.  The scars were deep and the emotional wounds fresh.  These were the forces that were driving her within.  They were forces just as out of control as these men and their own hopeless insanity.  Suddenly other men on the wall began to attack the warrior princess, but they were no match for her quick and agile moves.  She threw one of her attackers over the wall and knocked one behind her onto his back.  Another hoard ax came flying through the air at its target the warrior princess.  Casually she caught it with her bear hand and then looked to the man she still held up by the shirt.  He was shocked and stunned yet impressed at the same time.  Suddenly he was convinced of something, but what he did not know.

      He was entranced by the warrior princess desparate to know who this tall dark warrior woman was.  She spoke her name as it escaped across the fortress into the ears of every man who looked on.  It whispered of hope, fury, and of rage.  The man’s eyes lit up asking if she was Xena of the battle of Corinth.  He wanted to know if this was the Xena of Calmeye whom had defeated Callisto.  Xena’s answer was calm, calculated, and bearly audible.  She was milking the mystery and yet there was a certain fame to all of her deeds.  Most of them were the bad ones, but her defeat of Callisto had proven her good intensions.  She was not to be feared, but reveared.  The man’s attention was firmly in the grasp of the clever warrior princess as he suddenly looked to her for more commands.  As she released his shirt from her firm grasp she gave him the obvious answer and advised him to put his weapons in a place that he could quickly get at them.  It was amazing for not only had she grasped the attention of one soldier, but every soldier within the walls was now looking to the warrior princess for a command.  Xena quickly seized the moment realizing that now was the only chance she would have to grasp what was left within every man on the wall. 

     She continued commanding them louder and with more conviction.  The warrior princess told all to stand at the wall rather than behind it or under it.  She wanted them to show their determination and wills within their eyes.  There had to be a way to convince the enemy that there were too many of them to bust down the fortress successfully.  The enemy had been waiting for the perfect moment to demoralize them.  Xena wanted to take this moment away from them and to gain the advantage.  Her last command was to kill anything that moved between the fortress and the dense forrest beyond.  Gabrielle’s heart sank when she heard these careless words escape the warrior princess.  She interjected that friends should not be killed.  Xena’s answer to the debate was to snuff it out firmly stating that there were no friends left out there.  The words were as harsh as a slap in the face.  Gabrielle could not accept this and found herself upset by this sudden fury within the warrior princess.  There were no hints of possible remorse for these violent choices.  Then Xena walked across the walls down into the center of the fortress as another man asked Xena what they were going to do next.  She began a verbal campaign to encourage the men to revive their own confidence.  The warrior princess declared that the elite of the Athenian army would not be defeated.  These men now entranced responded strongly to the chants.  Then the warrior princess declared that the plan was to kill every hoard man out there.  The cheers from the crowd of infantry men were powerful.  Gabrielle could feel the dirty blood lust and the taste in her soul was thick.  It made the soul heavy with sadness and personal defeat. 

      Every man began to wave his sword in the air while Xena called them to lustful action.  Gabrielle could not stand to watch these horrors unfold.  The warrior princess had lost her own wits and could no longer think with a clear mind.  Without Xena’s heart Gabrielle’s soul was alone to face certain death.  It was like a bad dream and the bard could not wake up.  Reality could no longer be escaped.  Gabrielle had to act on her heart’s desire.  If she could not win Xena’s heart or her life from the hoard she would choose to die her own way.  Gabrielle soon found herself in the infirmary where the injured and the dying men were being held.  There was an eerie silence in this place that could no longer be found out upon the walls.  In fact there were no doctors tending to these men.  When the bard approached one of them she inquired about the doctors, but he answered that they had lost every last one of them during the first attack.  There was not a single soul to tend to the wounded.  The man even joked cryptically that only the goddess of mercy resided there to offer her help.  When Gabrielle thought of his tone she realized he had created his own goddess hoping to ease the pain and the suffering that could be eased no where else.  Not one man within these walls had a grasp on reality anymore.  Even Xena was gone now.

     Gabrielle’s mind was made up.  She was reminded of her days in Thessaly during their violent war against the Mitoians.  There at the temple of Esclipias she learned the arts of battle medicine.  She realized that these skills would now have to be called to action.  Gabrielle suddenly decided that she would die tending to the wounded and the dying.  Her soul could accept this fate.  As she walked about the infirmary she began to seek out the walking wounded knowing that she could not accomplish this task alone.  She would teach them how to help their suffering comrades.  With any help from the fates they would be able to help everyone survive this aweful tragedy.  The bard began to bark out orders as if she were the commander of medicine.  Men began to rise to their feet for there was a sense of relief in knowing that someone still had hope and someone still cared.

     After grabbing one of the men to fetch fire wood, and several others helping to clean up the dirty bandages Gabrielle felt confident that she could accomplish the impossible.  She had now separated the serious cases from those who were not so dire.  She was certain that no one here was going to die if they were well-cared for.  All of these men could make a recovery.  Though the apron she now wore was soon full of blood stains from her dilligent work.  Her heart felt strong and hopeful for she now had healing blood on her hands.  Soon she caught sight of the warrior princess returning from the battlements.  Gabrielle hoped to show Xena another way out.  With all of these men healthy and strong she was certain that there would be enough to bust through the hoard forces to escape if they had to.  Xena wanted to know how many more of them were on their way to death.  Gabrielle was certain that she could rescue them all.  She explained to the warrior princess with pride how she had come to organize the troops.  Xena seemed uninterested.  She felt that if the walking wounded could be nurses to the wounded then they were capable of holding a sword at the wall.  Suddenly all of Gabrielle’s work was being torn down and away from her.  Xena asked that Gabrielle choose which men were going to live and which would die for she needed all of the living at the wall now.

     Gabrielle did not want to make that choice.  It was not fair for her own heart could see that every man in the room had a chance to survive.  Xena harshly explained that there weren’t enough supplies to finish what Gabrielle had started.  The suffering and the dying would have to starve in order for the living to survive.  Xena had specific orders for Gabrielle.  She wanted all of the dead men to be brought to the south wall to portray the illusion that there were more men within the fortress.  Her goal was to fool the enemy into thinking they would be in for a battle that they could not win.  Yet Gabrielle was not so certain that the hoard men were the enemy.  It seemed to the bard that the true enemy was misunderstanding and its cycle of violence.  Xena ordered that all of the walking wounded were to be given swords.  All food and supplies would be rationed to the fighting men.

     And then Xena was gone.  Gabrielle was left to tend to the wounded without a choice.  They would have to die by a command.  The bard realized now that her only choice was in hospice.  She would only be able to comfort the dying with soft words and a gentle touch.  Prayers to the gods if any man still believed would accompany them to their deaths.  It was the only care she could offer now that Xena had forced these harsh seemingly unncessary choices upon Gabrielle. 

     Not long after Xena had left Gabrielle could hear the sounds of the fortress gates opening.  She was curious to know what was going on out there.  If danger was indeed there no one would be opening the gates.  She hoped that Xena had finally come to her senses.  Yet the sounds of battle began to rage just outside the gates between the Athenians and the hoard.  Twelve Athenians went out and only seven men returned followed by the hoard men who had been fooled into entering the fortress walls.  Suddenly they found themselves trapped and surrounded as Xena gave a command from the wall above the gate.  Archers emerged from hiding within the empty supply barrels bringing their wrath of arrows down upon the seven victims within the fortress.  The hoard men screamed as they fell in battle.  To the bard it seemed an unfair fight as she watched the horrors unfold.  Standing in the infirmary doorway she observed the warrior princess who took hold of the action grabbing a bow from one of the archers using it as a weapon against the approaching hoard men.  They were trapped like animals beaten down and demoralized.  There was no fairness in this fight when they were clearly out numbered within the walls.  The seven brave hoard men desparately tried to regain their dignity as they fell into death one by one.  As the gates began to close to seal them off one of the seven men escaped.  The warrior princess grabbed a hoard ax and ran to the wall ready to strike down the one who had escaped the trap. 

      Gabrielle had never seen Xena fight dirty, but this time she held no inhabitions.  She hurled the ax into the back of her enemy.  He did not have a chance against the skilled warrior woman.  When Xena turned to face the men there was no pain to be seen.  Only excitement and blood lusting becomming thirsty for more.  She was grasped by the hand of evil and seemingly had no desire to fight against it.  Gabrielle was disgusted for Xena had thrown away all that the bard had ever taught her about love.  The bard did not know this Xena who stood before the men as they chanted her name victoriously.  They won a small battle, but had lost everything they may have had to live for.  Gabrielle’s eyes could no longer take the sights they witnessed.  She returned inside the infirmary and looked for someone in need of comfort.  Another man was being brought in suffering on the brink of death.  This was a young one not more than seventeen.  Gabrielle imagined that he was probably once a farm boy like Perdicas had been.  The glory and adventure of war had probably lied to him telling him stories that were untrue.  Today he had learned the truth and it had cost him his life. 

      Even before he could die more men came to take him from her.  She had decided that she would defy the warrior princess.  Gabrielle would not allow him to take his last breath within the pile of decaying bodies that were now ridiculously propped upon the south wall.  There was no comfort in that.  As she took his cold hand in hers she soon realized that he was already gone.  She looked into his blank staring eyes and gingerly reached out to close them.  There was little time to mourn now.  Frustrations were building for Gabrielle’s choices had been robbed from her one by one.  It was all because of the fear and determination of Xena’s darkness.  Soon Xena appeared in the doorway, but Gabrielle could no longer face her.  This was not the friend that she knew.  The bard was alone, but hardly afraid of the warrior princess.  She would defy her till the end.  Her heart would not bend.  Gabrielle retreated to the supply room hoping to gain solace there.

     Solace did not last long for the warrior princess had found Gabrielle there only to scold her for not rationing the food to only the men outside.  Gabrielle could only counter by scolding the warrior princess for her own wreckless choices.  Xena defended herself quickly reminding the bard that the hoard outside would kill every man inside the fortress.  Gabrielle did not care about that.  She raised her voice to Xena angry that the warrior princess had used dirty tactics axing a man in the back.  The warrior princess fumbled to defend her actions.  It seemed that there was a slight crack in her story for her only defense was that the man had seen the Athenian defenses.  Xena was certain that he had to die in order to protect the Athenian position.  Gabrielle would not accept that answer.  She was begining to find Xena’s presence freightening.  It was even more freigtening that Callisto’s presence.  The bard’s nightmare was growing into a vortex of darkness.  Xena sensed her loss of control over the defiant bard and she grabbed hold of her soldier’s shoulders.  Then she wanted to know what Gabrielle had expected of her.  Xena declared that what they were experiencing was what war was truely about.  It wasn’t glamourous or adventurous.  It wasn’t glorious or heroic. 

     Gabrielle struggled to walk away from Xena’s grasp.  Without love she could see no reason to be a warrior.  Hope without good intensions was not hope, but evil.  Xena spoke of the unthinkable.  She declared that there were no good choices that could be made within this situation.  There were only lesser degrees of evil that could be embraced.  Yet embracing evil would never be a choice for the bard.  To embrace evil would be to embrace the darkness that she would fight against.  Gabrielle did not embrace darkness when Perdicas died at the end of Callisto’s sword.  She would not embrace it now even if it meant saving her own life.  Life was not worth living within darkness.

     Gabrielle countered Xena’s arguement with her own desparately trying to win back the warrior princess’s heart from the evil which had now consumed it.  She wondered how Xena could be so convinced that there was nothing to understand about the hoard.  Gabrielle was not so certain that the hoard were so different than people.  There were good souls inside of them just like there was a good soul inside of Xena.  It was the effort it would take to find the goodness that would be harder than dying within the never ending pointless violence.  Xena’s darkness would not let go of the warrior princess.  It refused Gabrielle’s hopeful notions of the hoard men.  The commander ended the debate abruptly reminding Gabrielle of how it began.  All rations were to go to the men on the wall.  All others were to suffer and to die.  With that the warrior princess forced the bard out of her way as she barrel back through the wooden doors and into the darkness once more.

     The bard was now faced with a choice.  It was a new choice.  She could surrender to Xena’s darkness and to bloodlust or she could take Xena back from the darkness within.  Gabrielle decided to follow Xena hoping to understand these strange choices that her friend was making.  The bard followed her to the command hut where she listened from just beyond its shallow walls.  There inside Xena spoke with Mercer and his second in command. Gabrielle had to know what Xena was plotting.  She heard the second in command inquire of a new device that Xena had suggested that they prepare.  The warrior princess indeed had a plan despite her out of control rage within.  It seemed that embracing her rage had somehow cleared her thoughts.  This made little sense to the bard as she continued to listen.  Xena had planned for the weapon to be used a smoke screen.  She was preparing the leave the fortress under the cover of smoke so that she could rally for reinforcements.  There was a new courage and confidence in Xena’s voice.  It was caring for she was willing to risk her own life out there alone in order to bring the help that all within the fortress so desparately needed.

     Gabrielle’s mind tried to wrap itself around the necessity of Xena’s darkness, but there was still great distrust of it.  The second in command argued against Xena’s leaving the fortress stating that without Xena the men would be unable to sustain their confidence and their defenses.  Xena agreed with him without question.  She quickly volunteered Mercer without a second thought.  It was as if she had planned the conversation between them before it ever happen.  As if Xena had known what would be said.

      The bard moved her position as the three commanders moved to the outside of the hut.  She roamed about the fortress investigating Xena’s intensions.  Gabrielle was preparing her own strategy against the warrior princess hoping to regain the light from the darkness.  The bard watched as the men prepared the smoke weapons.  Soon Mercer was prepared as Gabrielle spotted him down by the south wall alongside Xena and the other commander.  Xena had originally planned to follow the river down the the cliffs to reach reinforcements.  Yet she had decided that Mercer should take the long route away from detection by the horde.  She was certain that the river was swarming with them.  Mercer was convinced that it would take too long if he were to go away from the river. Xena handed him a weapon telling him to go north and double back south on the other side of the forrest.  Mercer took the weapon looking ragged and weak.  He wore no armor.  Gabrielle sensed the danger that Mercer would face.  She watched intently as Xena called the men to be ready for action.  The second commander followed up the command to the men who prepared the smoke screens.  Soon Mercer would disappear.  The bard knew it was not likely that he would return.  She was watching another man walking into his own suicide at the hands of the warrior princess. 

      Suddenly the command was given and the men began to throw their smoke screens over the walls.  The cloud of smoke thickened quickly.  Its intensity made visibility difficult.  Part of the bard was relieved that Xena had chosen to stay despite all of her actions of the day.  The smoke caused great fires just outside the walls as Xena commanded that the gates be opened.  Gabrielle watched Mercer dash out into the smoke and disappear into the abyss of a battle which began to rage on.  Horde men stormed the walls moments after the gates opened.  The Athenians were tough and confident now.  This small battle was just another diversion that would last a short time.  As horde men spilled over the walls they were greeted with certain death. 

     Soon the small battle was ending as the horde found themselves overwhelmed a second time.  It all came down to which army of men had the stronger will.  In this battle and in the previous two before it the Athenians had somehow been able to hold that advantage.  It had been out of the charisma of Xena’s darkness.  Gabrielle found this to be a stunning revelation.  Suddenly the second commander shouted out a command to cease fire.  He commanded the men to save their arrows.  Gabrielle found this odd for she did not hear Xena make those commands before him.  Her eyes searched frantically about the fortress unable to locate the warrior princes.  Just as the men were begining to celebrate again Gabrielle shouted out a command of her own.  She cut through the cheers with concern.  Gabrielle wanted to know where Xena was.  This quickly hushed the chanting and the cheering.  The bard ran to the gates to look out.  She saw Xena sneaking about the field of dead horde men.  It was as if she were checking for the men who were still alive.  The bard was yet again confused by Xena’s actions.  None of her decisions made any sense.  Then the commander shouted for the gates to be opened again as Xena entered through them with one of the horde men.  She had disarmed him throwing his weapon to one of the soldiers as he stood by the commader.

       Xena called out for assitance from the men.  Men quickly responded taking the horde man from the warrior princess as she commanded that he be taken to the hut.  She reminded her men that it would be dark soon.  The warrior princess demanded that double guards be posted there and that the torches stay lit through the night.  Then Xena moved on as if there were little time to stop and rest.  Gabrielle followed the warrior princess who appeared exhausted yet unshaken.  She wanted to know why Xena had suddenly shifted her choices from killing men to saving them.  This horde man that Xena had saved was not badly injured at all.  Xena looked to Gabrielle with frustration.  She suggested that this man was not being saved.  He was a prisnor being held for questioning.  This made even less sense to the bard for Xena had previously stated to her back in the supply room that there was nothing that she wanted to know or nothing that should be known about the horde.  Suddenly she was going to try to question one of them.  She didn’t even speak there language.  In fact, no man within the fortress walls could.

     Gabrielle followed Xena to the hut where she was to attempt to question the horde man.  Xena spoke to the man with attempting bit of respect.  He did not understand.  The horde man was alone in a place full of strange unkind men.  He had no one to defend him.  Gabrielle decided that she would stand up for his rights.  Xena brought out a map hoping to find out where his people were hiding.  She pointed to the map and then pointed to herself hoping that he would understand.  The horde man seemingly understood this as he shook his head.  Then Xena touched his shoulder softly and made a gesture back to the map.  It was as if she were treating him with kindness.  No one standing in the room believed that this horde man would be capable of answering back with kindness.  It seemed to Gabrielle he did not wish to answer the question though he understood it very well.  She could feel that he was concerned for his fellow horde men.  The horde man hesitated as he thought of the consequences.  Yet just as he was seemingly about to return the respectful gesture given to him the Xena the second in command pulled his sword lunging forward hoping to take command of the situation.  He was lusting to kill the prisnor before the prisnor was given a chance to communicate. 

      This action broke any trust that could have been gained between Xena and the prisnor.  Xena did hold back the commander yet she was afraid of losing control.  Gabrielle could sense this.  She soon shifted back to the darkness desparately trying to regain control.  The horde man struggled out of anger for the savagery of the commander’s actions.  Xena’s frustrations were mounting quickly.  She commanded Gabrielle to go outside.  Gabrielle refused the command.  She was not just another soldier.  The bard was Xena’s friend and she was the only friend that the horde man had within the walls of the fortress.  She would stay no matter the consequences.  Xena did not argue any more.  She was aware of the instability of the current moment.  Losing Gabrielle’s loyalty seemed trival to her now.  Her next move was cold.  Xena used her pinch of death upon the prisnor forcing him to suffer an unkind torture.  Gabrielle objected openly to this use of unfair and disrespectful tactics.  The commander was unaware of Xena’s technique as she had to explain it to him.  She was calm and calculated as she told of its horrific deeds to men. 

     Gabrielle watched as the horde man suffered.  His eyes were full of fear and lonlieness.  The bard could see that Xena was not going to release him from the clutches of death.  She was just going to make an example of him to prove some kind of commanding presence to the commander whom had just defied her.  Xena was desparately trying to assert her power in front of everyone.  Gabrielle could not allow this behavior from the warrior princess.  She knew that although Xena was giving into her darkness she was not unaware of it.  Xena could control it.  She was chosing not to.  Gabrielle pleaded with Xena, but the anger was building.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that she was becoming a murderer again.  Xena snapped back at the bard commanding her to go to the hut.  Gabrielle defied the warrior princess’s command.  She knew that if she continued to obey these commands as the men did that it would only feed the darkness more.  Gabrielle was now struggling to starve the darkness within the warrior princess.  She wanted to make it suffer if it meant relief to those who suffered because of it. 

      The bard continued to defy Xena openly in front of the men that did not belong to her.  She reminded Xena that she would not go back to the infirmary to play Celesta chosing death for some, but not for others.  Gabrielle would not be a murderer because darkness commanded it.  She would lash out against it.  The struggle of evil Xena verses the goodness within soon ended.  Xena’s good conscience seemingly won out as she released the horde man from death’s grasp.  It was clear that she was emotionally drained and weakened mentally.  Frustrated and tired the warrior princess commanded the men to take the prisnor to the supply room and chain him up.  The commander’s rage chimed in certain that Xena wanted the horde man to be executed.  Xena snapped back at him again stating that the man was to be chained up.  The conversation ended as the commander took the prisinor with the other soldier to the supply room.

     Gabrielle found herself to be relieved for the moment.  She reached out to the warrior princess and thanked her for saving the horde man’s life.  The pressures that she faced within as well as from the commander had been taxing for her.  Gabrielle knew it.  She hoped to comfort the warrior princess somehow, but was uncertain of how to accomplish this.  Xena did not accept the thanks from the bard.  She lashed out with anger that the bard had embarressed her and defied her openly in front of the men.  Xena then reminded the bard that she would kill the prisnor if it would save her troops from death.  This was about survival and nothing more.  Gabrielle had been right in her observations of the warrior princess.  Her heart was torn by its past and the suffering of the men she could not save.  There was something phsycotic about the warrior princess now that Gabrielle could not understand. 

       Xena continued as Gabrielle’s thoughts began to escape her lips.  The warrior princess’s mind was now focased on the battle and of the blood that would come with it.  She reminded Gabrielle that none of them had asked for this war.  It just was.  This would most certainly be a fight to the death.  Xena wanted to know what part of war Gabrielle could not understand.  Gabrielle realized that it was Xena who did not understand.  She did not understand herself.  The bard understood war, but she did not understand the out of control darkness that now relentlessly consumed her friend.  Gabrielle’s heart was broken by these thoughts of Xena’s darkness.  They went to a place that she could not travel to.  It was too much for the bard.  She was desparate to reach her friend.  Gabrielle cried out softly for the good Xena who was always wise and with good intensions.  The dark warrior princess turned to the bard and explained that only her darkness could help them now.  There would be no revival of goodness for it could not live in this reality of war.  Xena was willing to let her soul die in order to save every man within the walls of the fortress.  She left explaining coldly that the darkess was a part of her she had not realized she would ever need to call upon again.  With that the conversation ended as the warrior princess left Gabrielle’s heart to fend for itself once again.

      Gabrielle knew that she was losing the battle for Xena’s soul and Xena’s heart.  It was almost too much the bear.  The death and war outside seemingly did not matter to her anymore.  She went to the supply room where the horde man was being held knowing that he felt just as alone in this as she did.  Gabrielle could relate to him in a way that no one else could.  Yet she could not speak of this with him or understand him.  The bard decided that her only chance to save her own soul was to face the danger alone.  She would leave the warrior princess here with the darkness that consumed her.  Gabrielle was ready to die outside the walls in an attempt to escape darkness.  She began to gather water for her leather water bag.  As she grabbed a laddle off of the wall she began to fill it only to hear the prisnor struggle to speak.  He kept saying that word again.  The man cried out “caltucca” as he reached for the bard.  She looked to him soon realizing that he was desparate for a drink of water.  Caltucca was water and not a god of war.  It was life.  Gabrielle approached the man with water as he drank it thankfully.  The dying men wanted water and nothing more.  The magnitude of this misunderstanding between men and other men had spun out of control.  It was all over a lack of communication and willingness to try.  It was all over a lust for violence out of control.  It was about Xena’s lust for violence. 

      Gabrielle’s heart reached out realizing that this was the price.  The price was in losing one’s humanity when it came to the drums of war.  No matter what people were willing to lose themselves and for nothing more than a ridiculous war.  The horde man had finihsed his drink as Gabrielle had knelt down beside him to take the ladle for more.  She wanted to touch him and to let him know that it did not have to be about war.  Yet he was just as mezmorized by it as was Xena.  Xena had been right about only one thing.  If all were going to die there was only one choice left to make.  Gabrielle would die her way.  She prepared for her death without a weapon.  The bard would go onto the battlefield to save lives until hers was taken from her by the hand of the fates.  She soon filled her water bottle and then went outside back to the wall.  Gabrielle spoke to the gatekeeper telling him it was Xena’s command was to send her out to tend to the wounded men.

      The gatekeeper did not give it a second thought.  Xena’s commands were like gold to him.  That was the key to Gabrielle’s chosen fate.  She quietly went from one man to the next looking for those who still had breath.  Gabrielle shared the precious caltucca with her distant brothers as they lay suffering, thirsting, and dying on the battle field.  It was not long before Xena had realized that Gabrielle had been let out.  The warrior princess was enraged that she was defied yet again.  Her control over the bard’s fate and the fate of her men had been lost.  As the sounds of battle preparations from behind the walls began Gabrielle found herself facing death.  There surrounding her as she shared water with another one of the suffering men were his comrades waiting for the kill.  Gabrielle was surrounded just the way Xena had described it to be.  She looked up into the eyes of the men who raised their weapons, but did not strike.  Instead the began to gather their friends who lied dying on the ground.  The wounded horde men were taken back with their friends as Gabrielle rose from the ground carefully watching with amazement.

     No one was trying to kill anyone.  There was love and care in the air.  For the first time in a day it seemed that this battle could end and be fair.  Gabrielle then continued to share the water with every man there.  More horde men came to retrieve more of their dead and wounded as the Atheninans finally found the courage to venture out to retrieve theirs.  As Gabrielle continued carefully across the battlefield Xena came charging out of the gates after her.  Xena pushed her to the ground commanding her to get down.  She was extremely against the choice the Gabrielle had made.  Gabrielle did not care what the evil warrior princess wanted.  That was not the friend she had traveled into this mess with.  Then Gabrielle’s eyes caught Mercer struggling across the field.  Mercer struggling to move.  Gabrielle ran to him calling out.  He struggled to call back.  Mercer was lying on the battlefield wounded.  Xena followed Gabrielle to the wounded commander.  Mercer had not taken Xena’s advice.  He explained how he had tried to go the shorter route.  His attempts to rally reinforcements had failed.  It had been for nothing.  Gabrielle comforted Mercer with a drink from her leather water bag as Mercer lied there upon her lap.  Xena muttered under her breath that it was time to get back inside the fortress for she did not know how long this sudden truce would last.  Gabrielle looked to the dangerous warrior princess confirming to Xena that she had most certainly gotten what she had wanted.  Her war to the death.  It was now certain for all that hope was lost.  Without Mercer’s reinforcements no one would get out of the fortress alive.

     Gabrielle soon returned to the infirmary with Mercer and the other wounded.  She prepared the fire, and more clean bandages alone as she began to mourn the loss of the soul of her friend.  Gabrielle had fought hard to hold onto Xena, but she could not win.  The darkness was just too much for her to purge it of its sin.  In the darkness of the night she worked to ease Mercer’s suffering wrapping his head in the new bandages that she had prepared.  As she continued her work three men entered the infirmary.  They were not injured like the rest.  One of them spoke to Gabrielle explaining that Xena had commanded them to take order from Gabrielle.  The bard could not believe it.  She was insulted for a moment sarcastically reminding the men that Xena desparately needed at them the wall.  The man pleaded for a command from Gabrielle explaining that the basket of food that he held had been rationed by Xena for the men in the infirmary.

      Gabrielle’s heart found a bit of hope in this gesture.  Her soul felt relief realizing that her battle against Xena’s darkness had finally broken through.  Gabrielle began to ask the men distribute the rations to the suffering hungry men surrounding them.  She asked for more bandages as well.  Then Gabrielle continued her work deciding that her heart still loved Xena despite all that had transpired.  The bard mended wounds through the night and through the early morning when all was silent.  While the soldiers slept Xena finally found the courage to speak to her friend again.  Gabrielle was glad that Xena was by her side again.  Xena spoke with hope once more praising Gabrielle for discovering the key to the misunderstanding.  Knowing that caltucca was only water had led to the temporary truce between the two armies of men.  Xena spoke of how Gabrielle’s kind gestures to the strangers had made them think there was peace.  The warrior princess was disappointed in herself knowing that the peace was not her own.  She had let her fear and hatred blind her and she was regretful of it. 

     Gabrielle had already understood this.  She had spent the entire day and night trying to figure it out.  It all made sense to her when the war cries had finally settled down.  Gabrielle tried to comfort Xena and to apologize for her own actions against the warrior princess.  She had pushed her friend hard yet with little understanding until now.  Yet Xena would not accept Gabrielle’s apology to her.  Xena wanted to accept full responsiblity for her actions and wreckless choices.  She did not blame the bard for any of it.  The warrior princess wanted to express her admiration for Gabrielle.  Xena knew that Gabrielle understood hatred, but she had always fought against it.  Gabrielle would never step across that line despite being aware of it within herself.  This was what Xena wished to share with her friend.  The understanding of hatred and Gabrielle’s passionate fight against it.  This was how the rest of the peaceful night played out.  Forgiveness and a sharing of peace between two friends who could finally come to that understanding of each other.  Their differences within one another were to be loved just as much as the things that made them so much alike.  Gabrielle’s heart was warmed by Xena’s gestures of admiration.  It was more than she had ever expected from the warrior princess.   

      As personal issues were being resolved and peace embraced for all within the walls the sun rose without remorse.  It brought upon all the time to hold their resolve for there was a new challenge.  As Xena approached the gates Gabrielle followed desparate for a solution beyond a sacrfice.  Xena had declared on the night before through her prisnor’s release that she would fight only their leader and that would settle the fight for all.  Gabrielle pleaded with Xena hoping that there would be some other way.  Maybe they could talk to the otherside, but Xena knew this possibility was nothing more than a flaw.  It was not logical for peace to have come overnight, but indeed it had.  There was still a great divide between the two sides as misunderstanding still thrived.  The only two things that both knew was that caltucca was water and that a warrior code must always be honored.  This was Xena’s statement to Gabrielle as she prepared to do battle against the horde leader.  She had tried to encourage a duel against the prisnor the night before, but he refused her sword.  He would only accept that of the men who stood behind Xena.  This was the solution that Xena had seeked to release all from this impossible situation. 

      In the warrior code of the hord she had discovered that only a leader could fight another leader.  It was their law.  Xena would fight within the confines of their law hoping that in defeating their leader she would gain a permanant truce and a binding peace.  Soon Xena turned to her friend pleading that Gabrielle leave and go to the river in the event that Xena’s attempt at fighting for peace did not end in triumph.  Gabrielle again refused Xena’s request that she leave to go on without her.  The bard reminded Xena that they had traveled into this place together which meant that they must leave together.  Gabrielle would accept no other code between friends.  It seemed that for Xena there was some comfort in this loyalty that the bard had expressed.  She took the bard’s determination as she walked into battle.

     The gates opened slowly as all was quiet about the field.  There were only the sounds of the horde leader as he stood alone on the battlefield to await his challenger.  He appeared tall, strong, and intimidating as he prepared his moon shaped metal weapons for battle.  The horde leader swung his chains about him preparing to do battle.  Xena approached him calmly and without a single sound.  She did not try to intimidate him with her battle cry for she was fearful deep down inside.  Only the bard could see this and she was glad for if anyone else could have seen or known Xena’s fears then her chances of survival would dwindle.  Xena was brave as she made her final steps stopping before the enemy with a smirk and a slight smile.  There was a certain delight for the battle and she could see her enemy’s strategy.  For the first time the warrior princess knew that the enemy was just as afraid of her as she had been of him for so many years.  This empowered the warrior princess with strong confidence as she slowly reached back behind her to draw her sword.  She did not do it quickly for it was clear that the enemy would no strike until his challenger’s weapon was ready for battle.  In the moment that Xena would flash her weapon he would strike.  He was ready and poised, but the warrior princess refused to hand him his obvious advantage. 

      There was a slight admiration for the brave horde leader who stood before her.  Gabrielle could sense that the warrior princess admired his strict adherance to his own code.  He suddenly looked to the warrior princess making a loud grunting growl urging the warrior princess to begin the battle.  Xena did not delay as she grabbed for her weapon.  It slid smoothly and stealthfully out of its shealth upon her back.  There was barely a moment between the sound of Xena’s weapon emerging from its fortress to the sudden clashing advances of the enemy upon it.  Xena immediately went into a defensive battle stance.  It fooled the enemy into thinking that he could over power her quickly as he charged forward with his own weapons.  The enemy was powerful yet slow while Xena was quick and agile dodging each strike he attempted to make.  Xena held her sword steady as she successfully blocked every move the horde leader made.  She gave him some ground leading him into her trap.  He was begining to spin around moving forward with certain victory on his warrior mind.

      Suddenly there was an unexpected shift in the battle.  Xena had discovered another part of his code.  The horde man would not fight with his weapon if Xena would not charge with hers.  Gabrielle could see this in Xena’s eyes.  She could see that Xena was searching the eyes of her enemy for his intensions.  He began kicking with force as Xena dodged defensively.  His legs were poweful muscles driving forward.  His voice made sounds of frustration and irritation for he had come out for the kill and now he had to fight to obtain the blessings of his people.  He was not allowed to kill the enemy if the enemy did not go in for the kill.  This threw the enemy off balance.  He had been unprepared for this strategy. 

     Xena had to regain control of his mind’s focas as he powered toward her out of control.  His furious kicks began to connect with her face.  Her chest rose and fell with the rush of warrior adrenaline as she blocked an advance from behind her back with her sword.  She had to regain some ground from the enemy in order to win this battle.  She began to reflect his movements as if she were learning a new method of fighting.  It was amazing to see all of this unfold.  Xena could adjust to any situation so quickly.  She suddenly shouted out a warrior cry swinging her sword in front of the enemy to threaten him convincing him to give up ground.  As he lepted backward Xena was expecting his next attack.  He drove both of his sharp weapons down upon her as she readied her weapon long across her shoulders above her head.  Xena spun around throwing a hard elbow across his jaw.  She threw him back ward driving her thick leather booth into his abdomen grabbing back more ground from him.  Xena used her sword making contact across both of his weapons shaking his balance from beneath him.  The horde leader fell across Xena’s boot upon his back.  He did not stay there long as he popped himself back up onto his feet.  Xena countered for more ground as she used a jumping spinning back kick across the enemy’s face.  He lost more ground and did not recover as quickly from this move against him. 

      For a moment he appeared disoriented, but Xena’s advantage did not last long.  The horde warrior reached from within his inner warrior strength to gather the energy to attack.  There was anger and frustration behind his warrior emotions as Xena’s emotions were steady and focased.  Every time Xena would take ground in the battle she would do it defensively.  He could not compete against this strategy though it was clear to the bard that this warrior was equipped with much more physical power and strength that the warrior princess.  It appeared that Xena’s strategy of following his warrior code rules was working.  She was wearing down the enemy and his mental focas was weakening.  It was soon to be realized that his next move would lead to a violation of his own code. 

     Suddenly the enemy jumped forward charging with great force and awesome power.  Xena was seemingly prepared to lose what she had gained as she dodged his strike yet again.  His weapons drove down upon her only to miss their target and connect with a war wagon which had littered the field.  For a moment the battle was a stalemate as the horde leader cried out in frustration.  It was clear that he was tiring of Xena’s mental games.  Xena moved quickly to try to take the offensive knowing that this might be her only moment of offensive advantage.  She spun her sword in her had swinging her arm around for a power move against him, but he had been ready to defend.  Using one had to free one of his weapons from the wagon and the other to block Xena’s sword.  He was successful at stopping Xena holding her sword by its blade as blood dripped down his hand.  The horde warrior gripped the sword tightly and fearlessly with strength.  Xena was now at the disadvantage.  She had not expected him to move quickly. 

     Gabrielle could see Xena’s eyes trying to focas and search for a way out as the horde leader freed one of his weapons with his other hand.  Before the horde warrior could act on his advantage Xena took hold of his surprise as she grabbed his offensive arm releasing her grip upon her own weapon.  She ran up the front of his chest with he boots launching herself into a backwards flip sounding out a confident battle cry.  By the time she had landed upon her feet she had regained the advantage slyly swiping the enemy’s oww weapon.  Gabrielle watched the warrior princess’s own surprise realizing that Xena had not expected that she would come out of that moment alive.  Xena had impressed herself and built upon that momentum as she looked at her new weapon.  The warrior princessed smiled with delight for she throughly enjoyed the challenge of a battle with new weapons.  She was a natural at learning new warrior arts and using new weapons. 

      Quickly the enemy made his move with her sword.  He went in for the kill swinging the small weapon in his had wildly forward.  The horde warrior was unable to control the weapon for he did not know how to balance his moves with it.  Xena dodged his advances gracefully as he fell forward slumping over in his stance.  The warrior princess used his fatigue to her advantage grabbing him on one of his spin around moves using her new weapon to disarm him of her sword.  She now had his arm pinned and his own weapon to his neck.  There was a struggle of wills, but it was clear that Xena had the larger will.  She held the enemy steady as he continued to wear himself down trying to escape her grasp.  Xena attempted to use her forearm to drain the life and strength from within her enemy as he continued to struggle to escape weakening with every passing moment.  Just when it seemed that he would lose conscieneness due to lack of oxygen Xena freed him from her grasp throwing him to the ground releasing him from death.  She threw down his weapon next to the defeated leader picking up her own and walking away back toward the gates of the fortress. 

     All was silent for a moment except for the sound of Xena’s warrior boots making crunching their way across the dirt upon the battle field.  Gabrielle cried out for Xena to watch out.  The horde tribe stood just beyond the woods as they had watched their leader be defeated, but not to the death.  Soon their leader rose from the ground and shouted out in agony over his defeat.  It seemed that he was calling for his men to attack and the warrior princess paused prepared, but then she realized what he was doing.  He was trying to intimidate her into allowing him to save his own honor.  The horde leader wanted his battle to the death.  Xena refused it knowing that she had already won the honor and the blessing of those men that he had led into battle.

      As the defeated leader cried out his men raised their weapons and aimed them not at Xena, but at their unworthy leader.  Gabrielle watched as their axes flew across the battlefield and into the back of the defeated leader.  He fell to the ground defeated by his own code and his own society.  There was a lonely feeling which swept the battlefield in that moment as a great leader had perished alone.  All of the men whom had once followed him then retreated back into the trees.  It was clear that for now the war was over.  It all made little sense to the bard.  As little as the word caltucca.  When Gabrielle approached the triumphant warrior princess Xena explained that she did indeed understand that one leader had to die.  Then Xena looked to the Athenian commander and suggested that this was the time to send out a patrol to fight them if war was meant to continue.  The commander rejected this idea.  His only want now was to abandon the fortress and be certain that he could get his surviving men back home to safety.  With that statement he walked away.  There was little time to talk about all that had transpired.  It would be only a few hours or so before the horde had chosen their new leader who would most certainly return to fight the Athenians another day if they had chosen to stay. 

       When Gabrielle asked Xena if they would return Xena only cofirmed that it may be longer than hours.  She surmised that in a few years the horde would rebuild and return to fight again.  Gabrielle wondered if their rampage could be stopped somehow.  Xena explained that it would not be by warriors.  She was certain that it would be by someone who seeked peace.  The warrior princess grabbed Gabrielle’s shoulder squeezing expressing her admiration for the bard once more.  She explained that it would be someone like Gabrielle that would put a stop to the endless bloody misunderstanding between humans and horde.  Xena only hoped that the horde people had a Gabrielle within their tribe for that was what she felt it would take to be certain that peace would be obtained.  For now the price for war would continue to be losing one’s humanity to the cycle of misunderstanding.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #3: Scroll# 44: Ulysses

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#44:  Ulysses

May, 47 B.C.

As time passes by the spirit wonders.  It ponders what life means and the why the answers are unseen.  The battling bard had been traveling alongside the warrior princess now for nearly eight seasons.  When she had left her home village of Potedia at the age of sixteen she had seeked adventure and glory.  She had come to the realization that a warrior’s life was not at all what the stories had always told.  Instead it had turned out to be turbulant and unpredictable.  Most days living alongside the warrior princess had been at the mercy of the fates, the gods, and Celesta’s touch of death.  Now Gabrielle sensed that there was more that she wanted beyond the adventure she had once seeked.  She had learned so much about being a warrior and about how to fight.  Gabrielle had discovered the greater good and the passions that came with it.  The bard had learned hard lessons alongside the warrior princess and lost many things she held dear within her heart.  Her husband’s life had been sacrificed to the wrath of a soul destroyed by the evil that had once been Xena.  Gabrielle had only recently known this evil side of the warrior princess, but she was confident that it was now very distant from the warrior princess’s heart.

Gabrielle hoped to teach Xena about love and about hope.  She hoped to bring Xena out of the depression that had consumed the warrior princess for so long.  Gabrielle had gotten to know the heart of the warrior princess very well.  Though Xena did not often like to admit it Gabrielle knew her as well as Xena had known herself.  There was a certain vulnerability to this for the warrior princess.  It was a vulnerability that Gabrielle had admired about her friend.  She knew that this was what made up the true heart and soul within the warrior princess.  It was this vulnerability that few knew which made Xena so special.  There was power within it, but Xena had yet to realize it.  For Gabrielle there was only one way to help her friend learn to cope with this and be okay with it.  This recent sharing of the hearts led the two friends to the coast of the Agean.

The day was beautiful and quiet.  Gabrielle listened to the soothing peaceful waves crashing upon the shore just below the steep cliffs.  She was desaparate to walk down to get a true feel for the cool breeze that was certain to beckon all to caress the waves upon their feet.  Gabrielle’s excitement began to spill out into a conversation between herself and the warrior princess.  Yet the conversation was more one-sided as the bard beckoned the warrior princess to stop to take some time to smell the flowers surrounding them.  Xena just scoffed at the idea for smelling flowers was not productive in her warrior opinion.  She even questioned the bard’s philosophies as always challenging Gabrielle’s request.  Gabrielle of course had meant this philosophically and not literally.  She wanted Xena to realize that it was okay to stop and take a breath in life every once in a while.  Gabrielle wanted the warrior princess to see that life did not always have to be rough and full of adventure.  There were times when it only needed to be appreciated for what was being given.  Gabrielle was feeling that in this peaceful moment of walking the two friends were sharing was something to be appreciated.  This led into a tinge of frustration as Gabrielle realized yet again that Xena had been ignoring her the whole time.  The bard was determined to get through that thick warrior skull which housed Xena’s clever warrior mind.

She decided to ask Xena to stop and close her eyes.  She wanted the warrior princess to concentrate and meditate yet feel a sense of peace sweeping over her.  Xena was not excited about what she viewed as just another challenging game, but she decided to humor Gabrielle stopping to listen to the words that her friend spoke.  Gabrielle was desparate to capture Xena’s warrior imagination and to take it to a place beyond violence and beyond constant spiritual burden.  As Xena stopped and closed her eyes to listen Gabrielle then softly asked her friend what she heard.  Xena’s response was slightly candid and irritated as she spoke of the many seagulls flying above them.  Gabrielle felt for a single moment that she might be getting through to her friend as she asked her what the sounds of the seagulls made her feel.  Standing with one hand on her hip and her other to support her leaning against the staff the bard patiently and calmly awaited Xena’s answer.

Xena pursed her lips with her eyes still closed as she made a contorted face speaking of the irritation that she could not deal with because to her the gulls were extremely noisy.  The warrior princess then opened her eyes and turned to the bard as if pleading for her to stop what she viewed as nonesense, but Gabrielle would not surrender to Xena’s will.  Instead she asked Xena what else the warrior princess could hear.  Again Xena closed her eyes and then spoke of the sea.  Gabrielle felt that there was nothing the warrior princess would say that could possibly make the sea sound as horrific as the seagulls.  Yet the bard was wrong for the warrior princess again opened her eyes and turned to the bard explaining that the sounds of the sea only led her to the thought that she was glad to be standing upon dry land.

This of course was not the kind of response that Gabrielle had hoped she would be able to dig out of the warrior princess, but it was better than the feeling of irriation.  It was a start, but it also only meant that Xena had beaten her again.  She had made a game out of something that Gabrielle had felt was serious.  Xena quickly moved away from the bard continuing on down the path in triumph as the bard ran to catch up to her friend.  Gabrielle could not fathom the endless practical nature of her friend.  It was an irration in itself.  This made it nearly impossible for even the peace loving bard to stop and smell the flowers in life.

Gabrielle began to argue with Xena’s point of view defending her own position explaining that the sea was simply one of nature’s most beautiful and personal expressions of itself.  Xena responded with little interest in the bard’s statement.  She was practically ignoring Gabrielle who had decided that she would not allow this kind of ignorance from her friend.  She decided to demand concentration from the warrior princess asking her to again stop to close her eyes, listen, and hear the sounds of the peaceful waves beating upon the shore.  Her passion for this request was seemingly taken seriously for a moment as Xena stopped to try Gabrielle’s meditation excersise once more.  Gabrielle demanded that Xena learn to have a sense of peace, and some patience for new ideas to go along with it.  As Xena began to concentrate Gabrielle asked her what she felt.  Without a beat or an extra moment between Gabrielle heard Xena’s sword sliding out of its shealth upon her back.  Xena’s eyes were now open as she was ready and alert.  Gabrielle could not believe it.  The sound of the sea seemingly made Xena want to draw her sword.  It seemed that everything was about drawing her sword.  This was a frustration the bard was having trouble dealing with.

As Gabrielle spoke her thought outloud Xena replied that it wasn’t the sound of the sea that had caused this action.  It was the sound of a battle.  With that statement the warrior princess was off down the path of reeds further positioning herself for the next move.  The bard watched noticing that Xena was seemingly more at peace when her body and mind were poised for war than at any other time in life.  Gabrielle was shocked that she herself had not heard the battle for she had been listening to the sounds of life around her for some time.  The bard searched the landscape with her eyes curious to know where this had crept its way into her sense of peace.

Just below the cliffs on the beach there was a small battle between one rather strong and handsome man who was being attacked by three pirates.  Gabrielle had decided that with these odds it was time to jump into the battle to help the man who was being over run.  Yet the warrior princess did not make another move toward the battle.  Instead she just settled into her position in the light brush and reeds as if she were entertained by the battle.  Her sword was still drawn, but she did not move.  Gabrielle found herself confused by this wanting to know what Xena was doing.  Xena’s response was candid as she mocked the bard explaining that she was only taking Gabrielle’s advice.  The warrior princess then picked a tiny dandillion and threw it to the ground lazily explaining to the battling bard that she was only smelling the flowers.  Gabrielle was insulted, but this reaction from the warrior princess was hardly unexpected.  It was just another part of her friend that Gabrielle had to deal with.  She could not change it.

Gabrielle decided that although this was not what she had planned somehow it had worked for Xena was relaxed.  If watching someone else get clobbered in battle made the warrior princess feel a sense of peace then Gabrielle would not argue with it despite the morbidity of it.  As the battle raged on Gabrielle relaxed for a moment finding herself amazed at the skill of the lone handsome warrior.  He was dressed in black leather pants with a blue flowing blouse which revealed his masquline chest as he fought with double swords.  The blades of his swords appeared graceful and powerful as he defended against the advances of his enemy while using only powerful kicks against them offensively.  It was impressive.  These moves were uniquely similar to the natural flow of the warrior princess whenever Gabrielle had seen her friend in battle.  Maybe there was more to this sense of peace than Xena had been letting on.

Yet just as the bard was begining to wrap her mind around this idea the two friends watched the battle escalate.  Suddenly nine more pirates swept down onto the beach from behind the cove and cried out in an attack against the lone warrior.  Xena suddenly got serious determining that now was the time to jump into the battle.  It seemed to her that the odds would somehow be fair.  Gabrielle did not understand this at all.  Yet she did not argue.  Xena could probably take on at least five of them, and the other man three was certain.  tThis left about four more.  The odds weren’t comepletely even, but Xena loved a challenge and so Xena the warrior princess and the battling bard decended quickly down onto the beach from their position to enguage themselves into the battle.

Upon their approach the lone warrior took a stronger stance preparing ahead of his back up for the onslaught.  He was prepared to defend, but soon realized that he had the advantage as Xena came in from behind his right on the offensive.  Gabrielle took the left flank and deflected the pirate advance with her staff.  Xena took on seven men alone plowing through them with her sword clashing against their swords as they passed by.  Gabrielle took on the two to the left knocking them to the ground with her staff holding steady as the handsome warrior continued to handle the three he had been dealing with already.  The battle appeared effortless for the warrior princess and the lone warrior who seemed surprised that he had reinforcements.  In the middle of the battle as Gabrielle continued to fight and defend Xena held out her hand to her new friend and extended an introduction to him.  He smiled introducing himself as Ulyses.  Then he invited the warrior princess to lock arms with him for a thunderous move.  The two skilled warriors planted their weapons into the sand locking arms together.  Ulyses hurled the warrior princess around him through the air as Xena delivered kicks of fury out toward the men recovering from the initial attack from the right flank.  It was the most powerful defensive effort the bard had ever seen.  She rounded the perimeter creating a second barrier knocking each man back to the ground as he tried to rise to his feet.  Yet the fury of Xena’s kicks was too great for the twelve pirate men as they began to scurry away in defeat and retreat unable to recover.

As Gabrielle ushered the last of the pirates away she rejoined the warrior princess who was questioning the lone warrior.  Xena wanted to know why these pirates did not like Ulyses.  Ulyses began to explain that the pirates did not even know him.  He continued explaining that they owed their allegiance to someone else.  Someone who did not want Ulyses to reach his own kingdom.  Xena’s next question was in wanting to know what kingdom was that of Ulyses.  Ulyses’s next answer was shocking for the bard.  He was the Ulyses of the great greek legends.  His kingdom was Ithica and he was the king.  This knowledge was exciting for the bard who had heard that Ithica was one of the most beautiful islands in the Agean.  Ulyses confirmed with great pride that his kingdom held legendary beauty.  Xena seemed slightly jealous of the sudden relatability between the bard and Ulyses, but she continued to listen.  Ulyses explained with regret that he felt his kingdom would not stay beautiful for much longer for the pirates seeked to sack Ithica and destroy it.  They were prepared to lay claim to it for it had been promised to them as their spoils if they were successful in preventing Ulyses from reaching his home.  Ulyses was afraid that soon his home would be known as a wasteland.

Xena interjected with hope reminding Ulyses that those pirates were beatable for they had just gone up against them in a three to twelve battle ratio.  The victory against the pirates had come rather effortlessly.  Yet it wasn’t the pirates that Ulyses worried about.  It was their lord that he feared held the true power.  He was certain that the true foe was a force to be reckoned with.  Xena spoke up again showing off a bit certain that both she and the battling bard had seen some formidable foes as equal to the power of that of Ulyses.  Gabrielle was surprised that Xena had finally included her in the battle plan with confidence.  There was something flattering about this.  The bard confirmed Xena’s confidence with her own as they awaited more details from Ulyses.  Yet Ulyses was still uncertain of the skills that Xena the warrior princess and her battling bard possessed.  He looked out over the ocean and there before them arose a giant wave.  The wave formed into a large figure glistening and blue.  An uncanny aura of ultimate power could be felt within the soul as the being rose from the waters towering above all high up in the clear blue sky.  It was the god of the sea Poseiden.  Gabrielle recognized him with his trident and golden crown which he wore upon his transparent head.  Poseiden had a grandfatherly beard and piercing saphire eyes.

For a moment there was a bit of fear within the bard’s heart for she had not expected to ever meet a god who appeared to be a giant next to the titans.  Yet it was intriguing as Gabrielle walked toward the sea to get a closer gaze at the wonder that was Poseiden.  Then she looked back toward Xena and Ulyses who were much smaller now that they stood below the mighty god of the sea.  They appeared only a fraction of the size of one of the mighty god’s transparent toes.  He looked down upon them growling with rage as he asked Xena not to get involved with the plight of Ulyses.  Poseiden stated that he was aware of his newphew Ares’s fascination with her and their history, but that he the god of the sea would not show patience for the warrior princess’s participation in his own affairs.  Xena was cautious, but not afraid.  She stood before the god of the sea beside Ulyses asking Poseiden what it was that Ulyses had done to bring the god’s anger down upon him.

Poseiden responded within his booming echoing voice that Ulyses had blinded his son Polithimus.  It was apparent to Gabrielle that the warrior princess did not fear Posiden although Gabrielle felt that his power would be greater than that of Ares.  Gabrielle found herself slightly fearful of this billowing god as Xena looked to Ulyses and shared in a moment of triumph stating that she had blinded a cyclops before which meant they had more in common than Xena had previously thought.  Poseiden interrupted the moment angered that she spoke under her breath.

Xena then reminded Poseiden that she had never been afraid of Ares or any of the other gods she had encountered before him.  She declared that Ulyses was the rightful ruler of Ithica and that she would insure that he arrived there safely to rescue his people from the wrath of the pirates.  Poseiden then looked to Ulyeses and demanded that he stop the warrior princess in her foolish decision.  He continued by demanding that Ulyeses give up on Ithica and begin a new life without his homeland.  Ulyses looked to the god of the sea defying the request put forth to him.  His conviction for his people was passionate as he assured Poseiden that he intended to reach Ithica no matter the cost.  Poseiden reminded Ulyeses that there was nothing left for him in Ithica since the death of his beloved wife.  Gabrielle watched as Xena looked to Ulyeses unaware of this twist of fate.  Still Ulyeses stood firm in his decision as did Xena alongside him.  There was tragedy in the life of Ulyeses and it appeared that he had nothing to lose, but life itself.

Poseiden assured both of the great warriors that stood before him that no one would make it to Ithica alive for he would unleash the wrath of the sea down upon them for it was the only way to reach Ithica.  With that the great god of the sea disappeared back down into the violent waves of the ocean laughing until his laughter turned into the sounds of the waves crashing upon the cove below.  Xena and Ulyses wasted no time as they led Gabrielle down the path to the edge of the cove.  The path was treacherous with jagged rocks, but it had provided Ulyeses with the perfect hideout.  He had been living in it since the pirates had captured and killed that last men in Ulyses’s crew.  They had stolen his ship from him and been chasing him ever since.  It seemed that the warrior princess was uninterested in the problem which was rather unusual.  Her next question was not what Gabrielle had expected.  The warrior princess wanted to know how Ulyses had found himself blinding the son of Poseiden.

Ulyeses explained casually that he had stopped on the island of Polithimus on his way back from Troy.  Xena’s response to this answer was intriguing for she appeared to feel strongly that Ulyses had made the wrong choice which had put him in this terrible poasition.  Ulyses defended his decision at the time replying that he and his crew had gone there for food and supplies.  His men were starving and weak, but unfortunately Polithimus was just as hungry as the members of his crew had been.  It was obvious that some of them had been eaten by the cyclops which had led to the blinding of Polithimus at the hand of Ulyses.  Gabrielle found herself just as impressed as the warrior princess seemingly was.  It was no easy task to succeed at blinding a cyclops.  The bard remembered having to talk her way out of being eaten by one of them.  If it had not been for Xena’s blinding him Gabrielle would have become cyclops food herself.    Gabrielle joked with Ulyeses about his triumph over the cyclops which she could share in some small way as Ulyses responded back explaining that he was not about to be eaten by a cyclops.  Although Ulyses responded jokingly he was still serious minded about the task at hand.  It was as if the man never stopped.  He was a lot like the warrior princess.

Once Xena had satisfied her curiousity about the cyclops encounter she explained that the first thing that had to be done was to retrieve Ulyeses’s ship.  Yet it seemed that Ulyeses was about one step ahead of the warrior princess as he explained that he knew where the pirates were holding it.  It was in a harbor on the other side of the cove.  Gabrielle was impressed to find that there was someone out there in the world who was seemingly as savvy as the warrior princess.  There was a bit of fascination in this.  As Gabrielle looked to the warrior princess it seemed that Xena was suddenly experiencing some kind of regret as she began to explain herself to him.  He had been fighting on the other side of the war in Troy and Xena did not feel that she could ally with him until she explained herself clearly to Ulyses.  It seemed that he did not care which side Xena had chosen to fight on.  He was certain that the war in Troy was complete madness and wasteful at best.  Xena was determined to explain that her only interest in being involved in that war was to end it and to help her friend Helen.  It was obvious that Ulyses was beyond that scar by now.  He had moved onto the present.  Again he was a step ahead of the warrior princess.  Yet the air had been cleared despite there having been no hard feelings.  He assured Xena that his only enemies now were not those who fought alongside the Trojans, but those who stood between him and his homeland.  He was grateful to now have Xena as an ally.

With that Ulyses went to work preparing to scout the pirate position as Gabrielle approached the warrior princess noticing just a slight bit of romantic tension in the air.  She could see that Xena was taken with him and that had been the real reason for clearing the air.  Yet it did not matter.  It was a glimmer of hope for Gabrielle who could see the power of love creeping into the heart of the warrior princess.  She was hoping to get a little bit of feedback from within the warrior princess’s mind as she playfully commented on the handsome Ulyses.  Yet Xena just shrugged the tension off as if it wasn’t really there.  Gabrielle knew the truth about her friend, but was aware that Xena was not ready to accept this truth for herself.

By the time night fell Gabrielle and Xena had set up a camp within the forrest just a quarter marathon off of the beach.  It was perfectly positioned between Ulyses’s cave and the pirate harbor position.  Gabrielle had found herself to be exhausted waiting up for Ulyses so she fell asleep, but after about two hours she awoke to the sound of Xena suddenly drawing her sword.  Gabrielle did not move pretending to still be within slumber until she could determine the situation.  As she listened quietly she heard Ulyses complement Xena for her move against him, but call Xena on not moving to protect her friend from the intruder upon the camp.  Xena explained that she had heard his every move.  She continued explaining that she had found no need to adjust for he had not moved to attack the bard.  There was playful flirting going on between the two master warriors.  Gabrielle was pleased to find that Xena was taking a liking to Ulyses.  She liked the fact that he challenged her skills.  Xena’s next question was concern for Ulyses ship.  Ulyses explained that the ship was fine, but getting to it wasn’t going to be as easy.  He described the scene as swarming with pirates, with several look-outs, heavily armed, and with them having the advantage of position there would be little left to the imagination.

The bard felt these odds sounded grim although both Xena and Ulyses appeared to embrace the impossible with wit and confidence.  Even if they were feeling just a little bit threatened by their chances they didn’t appear to be phased by the threats they faced.  Xena then suggested that they wait until dawn to launch an attack, but it seemed that Ulyses had already made that decision.  It did not matter for the warrior princess seemingly liked a man who could plot battle plans like her.  After he agreed with the suggestion the bard heard a slight bit of giddy laughter between them, but mostly from the warrior princess.  Then there was a long pause of silence, but tension could be felt.  It was not anger, but something more passionate and sensual.  Gabrielle waited to hear more until Xena broke the uncomfortable silence with a direct and personal question.  She asked Ulyses about his wife Poseiden spoke of.  Yet before Ulyses could respond Xena tried to retract her question realizing that her crush on him was becoming a little too obvious.  Ulyses did not find the question so uncomfortable.  He wanted to answer it and put Xena’s fears about getting to know him to rest.  It was as if Ulyses wanted the same thing Xena wanted.

Ulyses spoke softly to Xena with appreciation for her concern within his voice.  He explained that he had not had a chance to talk about his wife’s death with anyone.  Ulyses then told the story of how he had run into some fisherman whom had seen the wreckage of the ship which had carried his young loving wife.  They told hiim she had gone out with a search party to find Ulyeses when he did not return home from the war that had lasted ten years.  While she was out looking for him Poseiden had taken his revenge upon Ulyses for the blinding of his son by bringing the wrath of the sea upon his wife’s ship.  She had been caught within Poseiden’s powerful storm which had crushed her ship.  No survivors were found according to the fisherman.  As Ulyses spoke there was a slight bit of anger and regret which had seeped through his cool calm demeanor.  Soon after he replaced these thoughts with the gentle thoughts of falling in love with his wife all over again.  They had met when they were only 17 years old.  It had been the moment that they had fallen in love marrying soon after.  Bliss did not last for them for just a few months later Ulyses had responded to the call to arms to fight at Troy.  He seemed confused by these thoughts as he spoke of how he had been thinking of his wife in all of the time since.  Xena spoke up with hope in her voice that assured Ulyses that love would find him again.  Gabrielle was surprised to hear this from Xena for it sounded like something she herself might have said to encourage Ulyses.  Ulyses then whispered back to the warrior princess as if he were uncertain of these feelings he was having within his heart and soul.

Gabrielle knew what he was feeling.  She could feel two people falling in love.  There was something scary about this for the bard.  It could mean a change for her and the warrior princess.  The thoughts scrambled through Gabrielle’s mind of all of the possibilities.  It was more than she could deal with in the moment.  She decided that it was time for a drink as she rose from her bed roll grabbing her leather water bottle.  Gabrielle quietly approached the couple sitting upon the log away from the camp fire in the moonlight.  She tried to move through the brush undetected, but her movements immediately grabbed the attention of the two warriors whose swords were drawn ready for action.  There was suddenly a sense of embarressment between them all.  It was obvious that a kiss may have soon followed, but for now the only response was thirst.

At dawn it was time to take action against the pirates.  The plan was simple and it was brilliant.  Gabrielle went to the harbor market to purchase some fine pirate wear.  She would be the distraction that could allow Ulyses and Xena to sneak onto the ship undetected.  Ulyses and Xena had built two canoes one for their sneak attack and one for Gabrielle to use to get a little attention.  By mid morning they were ready to go in for the attack.  Gabrielle approached the ship first calling the pirates attention to her.  She was seductive as she danced and demanded an invitation onto the vessel.  The pirates accepted her dance and her offer of pleasure for all as she danced them into a frenzy of sexual attraction.  Wild hormones were becoming difficult to control as some of the pirates began to grope the young maiden as she danced and held them off sneaking in a little kick or a small throw back move over the shoulder.  This only made the pirates more excited, but luckily Xena and Ulyses had finally approached the vessel, released the anchor, and prepared the sails making their way to the helm.

Suddenly Xena broke up the party demanding some attention for herself.  Gabrielle found herself relieved that her work was finally done as their attention shifted from sex to war.  Xena let out her signature battle cry as the pirates raced forward charging up the steps to the helm toward Ulyses and Xena.  It was obvious that once they had taken away the pirate adavange of scope and position there were only weapons and numbers.  The fight was now even with Ulyses and Xena up against pirates who had no time to grab their weapons.  They had been taken by complete surprise which meant the battle was fought with fists and boots rather than swords.  Gabrielle watched the scene suddenly unfolding as the action shifted from the deck toward the helm.  Yet she still found herself in the middle of the battle as some of the pirates realized that they had been taken by her seductive dance.  She had to act as she searched the deck for assistance.  The battling bard caught sight of a mop bucket which held just the right weapon.  She grabbed a firm hold of the mop using it to knock over the bucket of water as she turned it into a staff with a wet smack at the end of it.  It was lighter than her usual staff which allowed her to move more gracefully with it as she took on three pirates alone.  The movement of battle was just like the seductive dance although it was seemingly more empowering for the bard.

Xena and Ulyses kept themselves busy with the rest of the crowd of about twenty pirates as they threw each man overboard one by one.  As each pirate went splashing down into the water the battle became less of a burden and more fun.  Ulyses’s confidence was so great that he slid down onto the deck and began to help Gabrielle with the men on the deck.  Just as the last few men were thrown over board one pirate had gotten wise grabbing his cross bow from below decks.  He returned to find that only a young pirate boy facing off against Gabrielle were left, but just above him was Xena and Ulyses still across the deck.  The pirate aimed his weapon as the cowardly young boy jumped over board into the water.  Gabrielle prepared for the impact as Xena drew her chackram shouting out Ulyses’s name.  The moment was quick as Gabrielle watched Ulyses jump in front of her taking the arrow from the cross bow in the right shoulder.

Ulyses fell to the ground as the pain stung his body.  The pirate then drew his sword as Gabrielle tried to hold onto the injured Ulyses as he slumped over.  Xena jumped off of the helm onto the railing of the ship running toward the deck and then flipping into action.  She landed at the bottom of the steps just behind the attacker as she disarmed him and then threw him over board.  All was quiet except for the sound of Ulyses struggling to breath.  Xena looked to Ulyeses with concern as she quickly approached him knealing down to examine his wound.  Gabrielle was regretful that Ulyses had taken the arrow meant for her.  Yet it was obvious to the bard that Xena did not blame Gabrielle for she had been prepared to block the path of the arrow with her chackram.  Although Gabrielle had known that Xena would come through Ulyses had not trusted in Xena.  He did not know Xena the way the bard did.  Xena appeared to be disappointed that Ulyses had not known that Xena would be able to act upon that seemingly dire situation.  It was the first time since the two had met that they had not connected in battle.  Instead Ulyses’s passionate conviction and bravery had gotten him a cross bow in the shoulder.  It was not a pretty sight.

Xena comforted Gabrielle by stating that the injury was not serious.  Ulyses
responded sarcastically as if Xena did not understand his suffering, but Gabrielle knew that wasn’t true.  Xena explained to Ulyses that what she was about to perform was going to be painful.  Again Ulyses was sarcastic still blinded by his passionate convictions.  It was as if he were trying to defend his choice to jump into the path of danger.  Suddenly Xena broke off the shaft of the arrow pushing it violently through Ulyses chest freeing it from the obstruction.  Ulyses was shocked with a greater pain than before yet his chest was freed of its burden.  Xena was still frustrated at Ulyses for jumping in the way of her shot with the chackram.  Gabrielle tried to comfort his pain with a gentle touch, but the only thing Ulyses could think of was to stand back up and jump back into his work.  Xena would not allow him to rise to his feet explaining that it was time for him to finally rest.  Ulyses’s ego was begining to rage against Xena’s as if he were trying to keep up with the warrior princess in some measuring of skills and bravery.  When Xena realized this she just smiled as she explained that she would take care of the ship without him.  He appeared shocked that Xena knew how to operate a ship.  Xena only replied that she had many skills.  Then she bounded off and began to prepare the ship as she flew through the air gracefully using her sword to take care of the ropes to tie them off  for sailing.  As Gabrielle watched her amazing friend sailing through the air taking care of everything as always Ulyses uttered his admiration for the warrior princess.  If he had not felt strongly about Xena before he truely did in this moment.

Not long after Xena had finished manning the ship she took Ulyses down below decks to clean up his wounds and bandage them for him.  Gabrielle had never seen the warrior princess this interested in a man.  Something about Ulyses captivated the warrior princess and made her appear even more invincable and extraordinary.  Gabrielle sat down softly and listened quietly just below the deck upon the stairs leading down into the cabin.  Ulyses asked the warrior princess about her chackram and Xena shared her pride of the magnificient weapon.  The king of Ithica appeared impressed that Xena was the only one who could harness the power of the chackram.  This was another thing the two had in common with one another for Ulyses had such a weapon back in Ithica.  It was a bow made out of the strongest iron wood that only he could string.  It could send a single arrow through three straight men before stopping its momentum.  Xena was impressed that he had such a weapon and was thankful that Ulyses was the only who could use it; however, she herself had not tried it yet.  It was obvious to the bard that Xena would love to have a chance at it someday.  Her next question was in how he had come to secure such a weapon and Ulyses continued explaining that it had been a family heir loom passed down through the generations.  It was forbidden that he take it off of the island.  This satisfied Xena’s curiousity about Ulyses special weapon.

As they spoke Ulyses appeared impressed that not only could Xena unleash the fierce beast that loomed within every warrior’s heart, but she had a tender and soft touch as she repaired his wound.  Just before Xena could speak he interrupted her as if knowing what Xena would say next as he thanked Xena for using all of her many wonderful skills and talents to assist him in retrieving his ship.  Despite this seemingly perfect relationship between two warriors Ulyses was planning on dropping Xena off at the next port with Gabrielle and moving on without them.  Xena objected to the idea challenging Ulyses excuse for dropping them off.  He had said it would take at least a crew of three to successfully man his ship.  Ulyses was planning to seek out some local adveture seekers to go up against Poseiden.  Yet Xena explained that by her count they already had a crew of three between herself, Ulyses, and Gabrielle.  Ulyses tried to talk Xena out of the idea of traveling to Ithica with him for he remembered that Posieden would be certain to unleash his power.  It was as if Ulyses had resigned himself to death at the mercy of Posieden and he did not want to take Xena and Gabrielle there with him.  Yet Xena explained that she had already made up her mind.  She was going to see him through this voyage against Poseiden.

When Ulyses tried to object on Gabrielle’s behalf Xena explained that she had learned that leaving Gabrielle behind was never an option.  Gabrielle found herself entering into the conversation from her perch just upon the stairway leading back up to the deck explaining that she would go where Xena would go no matter where that was.  The bard hoped to help ease Ulyses’s concern for their safety.  Gabrielle was certain that Xena enjoyed Ulyses company too much to let Poseiden’s threats stop her from going to Ithica.  Yet Xena responded to Ulyses’s concern as if they were rejections of her company.  He quickly put those anxieties the warrior princess was feeling to rest explaining that he truely desired Xena’s help, but mostly her company.  His appreciation for the beauty of the warrior princess beyond the leather, breast plate, and chackram was obvious to Gabrielle.   Although as Gabrielle struggled to walk and stand up straight she found herself also feeling extremely sick to her stomach as the ship rocked back and forth over the calm seas.  This interrupted the wonderful moment everyone shared, but Gabrielle could suddenly think of nothing else.  The bard found that this upset stomach was irritated with the motion of the ship which made it difficult to concentrate on anything.  Her conclusion to the problem was sea sickness as she passed both Xena and Ulyses in an attept to find a spot that would be less likely to rock, but the attempt was futile for the bard.  There were seemingly no stable places to rest on the ship.

The sea sickness was growing more intense with each passing moment.  Gabrielle struggled to take in breath without the feeling of wanting to hurl.  The smells of the sea creeping down below decks were part of the problem Gabrielle had surmised combined with the constant rocking.  As Gabrielle tried again to move and change positions she found herself perching upon an old crate next to the navigation table where Xena and Ulyses studied a map of the sea planning their battle against Poseiden.  Gabrielle tried to focas on their conversation hoping that it would help her forget about the sea sickness.  Yet it was nearly impossible as Gabrielle found herself standing up and pacing across the cabin once more to the other side of the navigation table where Xena and Ulyses continued to talk about Ithica.  Ulyses spoke of how it would be several days of sea travel between them before they could reach Ithica.  Not only that, but he continued explaining that the days of suffering that Gabrielle would have to endure would be just as futile as trying to combat the sea sickness.  Posieden’s storms had been too furious for him to ever reach Ithica in the past.  Gabrielle was certain that this voyage would be no different.

Xena of course had the answer.  She asked Ulyses if they could take the shorter route along the chain of islands that connected Ithica to the mainland.  Yet Ulyses shot down this idea reminding Xena of the island of the sirens.  Gabrielle had heard of the sirens and as she tried to remember why their story was so important to her.  Then it came to her through the ill feelings which plagued her.  Gabrielle explained to Xena seriously that the sirens were said to have a song so powerful it could call all men to their deaths upon the rocks of the island.  Ulyses was certain that Poseiden would call upon them to help him battle against Ulyses, and Xena.  Gabrielle found herself to be alarmed imagining how a song could kill them all smashing the ship to pieces, but Xena calmed Gabrielle’s concern quickly reminding everyone that she was not a man which meant the rules didn’t apply to her.  There was a slight bit of relief in knowing that it was now possible to travel the shorter route that could offer cover from the wrath of Poseiden’s storms.  Not only that, but Ulyses’s interest in Xena was growing as he joked that he had noticed that Xena was indeed not a man.  With that the flirting continued as Xena looked to Ulyses and responded to his question.  He wanted to know if she was going to be able to singlehandedly get them past the sirens.  She was certain that the challenge of the sirens would not be an issue.  With that statement Gabrielle was satisfied.  It was certain that they would be taking the shorter route, but Gabrielle was uncertain of how much longer she would have to endure sea sickness.  She rose from her crate hoping to escape the constant bobbing up and down by breathing in some fresh air above decks.  The bard hoped that the open high seas would help relieve her of the unbearable nausia.

Yet even the open air upon the decks above held no solace for the bard.  Even worse Gabrielle found herself having to man her part of the ship duties between each burst of vomit from the inner wall of her stomach.  The bard spent most of the rest of the day trying to keep up with Xena and Ulyses, but she was unsuccessful.  There was misery within embarressment in the self discovery that Gabrielle could not handle sea life.  Xena approached Gabrielle on one of her bouts of painful misery as the bard hung her head over the side of the ship.  The warrior princess was sarcastic with pleasure at her friend’s suffering.  She used this opportunity to tease the bard about her philospohical lesson with the warrior princess on the day before.  Xena suggested that Gabrielle just close her eyes and smell the seagulls.  Gabrielle sensed Xena’s heavy sarcasm realizing that Xena was comparing a discussion of life’s traquil beauty to physical pain and suffering.  Through the emotional irritation Gabrielle was feeling she realized Xena’s humerous remarks were the honesty of how Xena viewed most days of her own life as a plight of suffering and sea sickness.  The bard once again found herself defeated not only by physical issues, but by Xena once again.  It seemed that Gabrielle would never win this battle of views between herself and the warrior princess.  Everything was always so cynical with Xena.  This thought added to the irritations within Gabrielle’s stomach as Xena delivered the final blow which delcared her victory over Gabrielle’s philosophies.  She reminded Gabrielle that they had yet to reach the roughest part of the journey.  The seas were calm in comparison to what they would experience later in the voyage.

Gabrielle could not believe that it would be possible for her to suffer worse than she was already suffering.  Suddenly Ulyses piped up that there was a major storm coming upon the horizen.  It was most certainly Poseiden’s first battle move against them.  Gabrielle realized that this voyage to Ithica was extremely symbolic of her travels with Xena.  It always seemed that when things couldn’t possibly get worse life would throw a major storm toward the ship being sailed no matter how good or how comfortable the ship seemed.  By nightfall they had reached the storms.  Ulyses, Xena, and the bard escaped the wrath of Poseiden down below decks as they tried to ride out the violence.  Gabrielle only wanted death now for it was seemingly the only thing that could bring peace back to her soul.  If she could no longer feel the physical suffering then her soul could be free to find peace.  Several times the bard begged Xena to knock her unconscious, but Xena would not honor this request.  When Gabrielle pleaded with the warrior princess for death Xena just held her friend steady as the ship rocked violently throwing its mariners about like loose dinars.  It was almost as if the warrior princess were still gloating in her glory.  As Poseiden’s wrath raged on through the night and into the early morning Xena calculated that they would be reaching the island of the sirens.  Xena decided that the only way to save the ship from their songs was to tie Ulyses up so that he would be unable to take control of the ship.  Xena would take over the helm during this part of the journey leaving Gabrielle to guard Ulyses until they began passing the island of the sirens.

The sun rose from within the darkness of Poseiden’s powerful storms bringing calm back into the water, but Gabrielle’s stomach was still battered deeply within.  It was as if Poseiden himself had been directing his wrath from within the walls of the bard’s feeble stomach.  There was no rest for the weary as Gabrielle found herself struggling to stay awake now that a large portion of the pain had subsided.  Nautia was still within the pit of her stomach, but it was no longer with the edge.  This was manageable unlike during the night’s storms.  However, the quiet calm continued the sounds of the wind soothing Gabrielle as she lied her head down upon the map table hoping to ease her physical exhaustion.  Just as the bard was about to fall asleep the sound of the wind seemingly blended itself with the sounds of a faint whispering song.  Gabrielle was not certain that it was anything more than being between a dream and real life.  Yet just when Gabrielle was about to drift into the dream Ulyses spoke.  He asked the bard if she could hear it.  A beautiful song so mezmorizing that its beauty could not be described.  Although Gabrielle was not impressed by the sounds of the sirens Ulyses was captivated.  His eyes lit up as his body longed for the extasy that seemingly beckoned him to follow the songs.

Gabrielle slowly woke from what was seemingly the dream into the reality that Ulyses was about to try escape Xena’s binds.  The bard was already weak with illness.  She was certain that if Ulyses were to escape she would not be able to stop him.  Gabrielle first tried to help Ulyses get his mind off of the deep soothing song of the sirens.  She was not certain what he was hearing for he was a man.  Whatever it was it unnerved him into insanity.  It was obvious that Ulyses had lost all self control.  When Gabrielle tried to think of something to talk about all she could think about was discus throwing.  This subject was weak in comparison to the illusions of the sirens and their songs.  Gabrielle could only imagine that their songs were filling Ulyses’s mind with beauty beyond that possessed even by the warrior princess.  Gabrielle cautiously rose from her spot upon the crates next to the map table slowly approaching Ulyses who had now picked up a piece of broken pottery from the floor with his boot attempting to free himself from Xena’s binds.

The bard realized that it was only a matter of time before he would escape.  She desparately hoped to somehow distract him from the voices which called to his soul.  Yet Ulyses was unstoppable for he was too powerful and too strong for the weakened bard.  He begged Gabrielle to help him escape, but she could only weakly remind him that it was not in his best interest.  As she approached him attempting to stop him from his madness Ulyses’s kicked her to the ground sending a whole new sense of pain through the bard’s body.  Now the only thing Gabrielle could feel was the numbness of her leg which was nearly broken by the force of Ulyses’s powerful kick.  Ulyses fled from the cabin dashing up the stairway onto the deck.  His only hope was Xena who was already busy steering the ship.

All that could be heard for several moments above were the sounds of a fierce battle between the warrior princess and Ulyses.  They battled for control of the ship which did not help the pain of Gabrielle’s leg combined with the sickness still plaguing her stomach.  The sounds above were of feet scurrying, and bodies slamming onto the deck.  After several moments of battle and of the ship being steered into the jagged rocks and away from them the course held steady.  Gabrielle was uncertain who the winner was until she heard Ulyses’s heavy boots scurrying down the stairs of the helm onto the main deck and then they were quiet.  Xena shouted out for Ulyses to stop for she could not leave the helm as the path through the jagged rocks just off the island’s shore was too treacherous.  Gabrielle knew that Xena would not be able to stop him for the sounds of the sirens were beyond her control.  Yet just when Gabrielle thought that Ulyses might face his death upon the rocks Xena began to sing her own song.

Xena’s voice began low and uncertain.  Yet it seemed to be working for it broke Ulyses’s attention away from the voices of the sirens for a moment.  The warrior princess continued to sing with more depth, and more power.  Her soul reached down into its pit to draw love and affection from within attempting to sway Ulyses’s soul from its demise.  Xena’s voice held steady for hours until finally the sounds of the sirens became more faint as time passed.  As their songs weakened blending into Xena’s voice there was no way for Ulyses’s mind to be drawn to their power.  Gabrielle heard Ulyses’s boots step back down onto the deck as the sounds of the sirens faded into the sounds of the wind and Xena’s virtuostic voice.  Suddenly all was quiet and the danger was seemingly over.  They had made it through Poseiden’s storms and successfully averted the rocks upon the island of the sirens.  It was now onto Ithica with nothing, but smooth sailing ahead.  For Gabrielle this was a relief for she would not have to bear the harshness of rough seas for the rest of the voyage.

The pain of her injured leg was also begining to subside as Gabrielle decided that it was safe to emerge from within the cabin out onto the decks for some fresh air.  Ulyses caught sight of her and inquired of her injury fearing that he was responsible.  Gabrielle would not accept sympathy from him for his irrational behavior as he desparately tried to apologize to her.  The bard knew that the power of the sirens was beyond a man’s control.  She tried to make light of the discomfort explaining that for a brief moment Ulyses had allowed her to forget about her sea sickness.

As the third day at sea had come to an end Gabrielle found herself sinking into the hamock in the cabin for some much needed rest.  Xena and Ulyses were seemingly unaffected by all of the excitement of sea life and by Poseiden’s obstacles.  Instead the two continued to enjoy sharing in each other’s company in a way that only soul mates can share with one another.  It seemed to the bard as she listened pretending to be asleep that Xena had finally found her tree within the forrest.  It was Ulyses.  He was Xena’s other half and the bard knew it.  There was uncertainty within these thoughts for Gabrielle although if Ulyses was indeed her other half then maybe the warrior princess could find the peace that Gabrielle hoped her heart would find.

Gabrielle continued to listen as Xena offered Ulyses some bread and cheese that she had gathered and cut up for him.  Ulyses seemed pleased at her gesture.  It was behavior coming from the warrior princess that Gabrielle rarely ever saw.  Xena was in love.  Gabrielle hoped that Xena could be honest with her about this at some point.  Ulyses just chuckled when Xena suggested that she had messed up the bread and cheese referring to her lack of experience with cooking.  Ulyses responded by explaining that he had a wonderful cook back in Ithica.  There was an awkward silence between the two which was smoothly broken by Ulyses who attempted to infer that he was only speaking of how Gabrielle and Xena would both be well fed if they were planning on staying in Ithica for any lengthy period of time.  It was as if Ulyses was inviting her without actually saying so.  Gabrielle sensed what Ulyses desired.  He desired Xena as she was certain Xena had desires for him.  Yet it seemed that Xena had yet to be honest with herself about this.  It was why Xena had not approached the subject with Gabrielle.

When Xena did not respond right away Ulyses then posed the question.  He wanted to know if Xena was committing herself to a chance at a relationship with him.  Xena’s response was a fumbling of words at best.  Then Ulyses charged forward within the conversation knowing excactly what he wanted to say, but chosing not to say it.  It was as if he were begging Xena to make the first move, but Xena’s heart was afraid.  This brought concern to Gabrielle’s heart for her friend wondering if Xena’s heart could remember what love truely felt like.  Then Ulyses bared his soul saying exactly what he had been yearning to say to the warrior princess.  He explained that he was in love with her.  Ulyses was even prepared for Xena’s retort about his wife Penelope.  He explained that her memory would live on despite his love for Xena.  Ulyses was not even certain if his feelings for Penolope had been real for they had been only seventeen when they had parted.  He had been certain that his love of Penelope was a love for his own ideal of her rather than the woman herself.  There was concern, and romance.  Ulyses’s words were swift as he was attempting to sweep the warrior princess off of her feet with words of love.  Xena tried to put more value into the ideal that was Penelope, but Ulyses had already devalued it within his heart and his mind.  He agreed with the warrior princess that Penelope had been a special woman.

Before Xena could say another word Ulyses explained that with Xena things were different.  He had felt like he had known Xena his entire life.  With that statement it seemed that Ulyses had somehow lost his edge and his confidence in himself.  He was uncertain that his heart was telling him the truth, but Gabrielle knew that Ulyses was smart.  He knew more about his heart than he realized.  Xena was not equipped to handle his inquiry.  He wanted to know if he was crazy for having these thoughts and feelings.  The warrior princess’s only response was of uncertainty and to remind herself out loud of what the bard’s own beliefs were.  Xena reminded herself of the story of when all people had two heads and four legs.  Gabrielle could hear this within the warrior princess’s mind.  In this moment it seemed relevant to her somehow as her thoughts surfaced into Ulyses’s reality.  Xena spoke of everyone having their soul mate.  Ulyses was softly delighted as his confidence in his heart’s voice was restored.  He was certain that Xena was his soul mate and he pressed this into Xena’s reality.  Gabrielle again heard a long pause, but this time it was of passion.

After the long moment of nervous passion Ulyses posed his question straight.  He wanted to know if Xena was planning to stay in Ithica with him to see how things might work out between them.  Xena’s response was giddy yet obviously uncertain.  Gabrielle sensed fear within Xena’s voice yet it was barely noticeable to anyone else.  It was as if Xena were falling in love for the first time. As Gabrielle began to weigh the situation heavily Ulyses went back to the helm to guide the ship during the rest of the night.  As he left his genuine concern for the warrior princess was powerful as he suggested that she gather some rest for herself.  As he left Gabrielle’s eyes were wide open now as she hoped that Xena might ask for her advice.  Yet Xena kept silent as Gabrielle realized the difficult decision Xena’s heart faced.  It was as if Xena would have to chose between her life with Gabrielle and a new life in Ithica with Ulyses.  Gabrielle found herself slightly saddened knowing her travels with Xena could end as this voyage triumhped over Poseiden.  Then she remembered how Xena had handled things when Perdicas came to ask for her hand in marriage.  With that thought Gabrielle was ready to give life alongside the warrior princess up if it would tame Xena’s anguished heart.  The sacrifice would be worth it.  As the bard recalled to herself the entire journey and purpose with Xena was in showing the warrior princess how to love again.

Finally the thoughts of hope mixed sweetly with sadness faded into the slumber which captured the bard after a few days of sleepless nights.  Gabrielle found herself awakening when the sun was high overhead which meant that she had slept in for the first time in a great while.  She felt refreshed despite the events on the night before.  The sea sickness had subsided and was barely noticeable to her now.  She thought it might be for her concern about Xena and about their friendship.  Gabrielle decided that if Xena was not going to approach her then she would open up the subject herself.  When Gabrielle approached Xena as the warrior princess manned the deck Xena expressed a friend’s concern.  Xena inquired of Gabrielle’s sea sickness.  The bard quickly answered stating that although it was not completely gone she would survive it just fine.  What Xena had really hoped to do was to avoid the unavoidable.  Gabrielle quickly shifted the subject to Xena’s  feelings about Ulyses.  The bard seeked an honest answer from Xena whom appeared surprised that Gabrielle was aware of anything.  Xena then moved away from the bard onto another part of the ship to tie off some more ropes.  The warrior princess tried scolding the bard as she joked Gabrielle did not sleep all that soundly.

Gabrielle had to accept defeat in this for she had been eavesdropping on several of Xena’s personal conversations with Ulyses.  The bard joked back explaining that it was the torture of her illness which had kept her awake and listening to the passions unfolding.  Xena used this as an oppritunity to escape the real issue as she instructed her friend to try lying down on her stomach while at sea.  Gabrielle would not allow Xena to get out of answering the serious question.  The bard scolded Xena for trying to escape her inquiry.  Gabrielle hoped Xena would answer her so that she could plan her next day preparing to be alone without a soulmate.  Gabrielle needed to know what was next for her in life.  Xena paused for a long time and did not answer.  Yet Gabrielle already felt the answer.  The bard felt as if she wanted to release a tear from her eye for she could already feel the lonliness of  life without Xena.  Then she asked Xena to promise that whatever Xena’s answer was it would be the answer that followed Xena’s heart.

The warrior princess knew instantly what her friend’s fears were.  Xena knew that Gabrielle was afraid of going on without her.  The warrior princess finally answered immediately dissolving Gabrielle’s lonliness reminding the bard that Gabrielle was a part of her heart.  For a moment Gabrielle was embarressed realizing her own selfishness.  Then she reminded Xena of the advice Xena had given to her when Perdicas came back into Gabrielle’s life.  Xena had told Gabrielle that seeing her friend happy would make Xena happy.  Gabrielle wanted Xena to know that she now understood Xena’s advice more than ever.  She wanted Xena to know that she felt the same way about the warrior princess’s choices despite her own selfish heart.

There were more moments of tranquil silence, but Xena cut them with confident reassurance of Gabrielle’s place in her life.  She explained that Gabrielle had been good for her heart.  Xena continued by saying that Gabrielle being a part of her heart and her life was the reason that Xena could find herself having feelings for Ulyses.  She had learned how to love through Gabrielle.  Gabrielle realized that her place in Xena’s heart was still secure despite her having fallen in love with Ulyses.  Suddenly Gabrielle came to another realization.  Xena had finally openly admitted that she had fallen in love with Ulyses.  This led Gabrielle to rejoice urging Xena that they had already decided within their hearts that staying in Ithica with Ulyses would be their next challenge.  Just as Gabrielle blurted this revelation out Ulyses shouted out “Ithica!”  The excitement of reaching land was like no other.  Gabrielle ran to the side of the ship to view the land that was now within her grasp.  Soon her body would be released from the torture it had faced for four days.  Indeed there was a lot to celebrate upon landing.  Gabrielle thanked all of the gods all accept for Poseiden as she rolled about in the sand basking in her glorious release from illness.  Ulyses ran his fingers through the sands upon the beach.  He was finally home after ten long years of war, and battles against Poseiden.  His triumph would be remembered forever.

Soon Ulyses was showing off his childhood home to Xena and Gabrielle as if he were only seven.  He introduced his new friends to the hill in the woods that he and his friends had played childhood games upon.  Of course he remembered that it had been much larger when he was five.  As they continued on Ulyses caught sight of an old carving within one of the trees near the hill.  It was as if he had forgotten about it.  He was so excited to show off his carving to Xena who appeared to be uninterested at best.  She was more interested in the innocence of Ulyses rather than his actual childhood exploits.  Gabrielle decided to ask him what his carving represented and he proudly declared that it was an eagle which had been his favorite animal as a child.  Xena interjected that she thought it looked more like a fish, but this was typical of the warrior princess.  Everything peaceful and innocent was about fish to her.  Gabrielle took note of this observation in her mind.  Then Ulyses defended his work proclaiming that it was magnificiently done by a five year old boy.  He appeared surprised at how much had changed upon Ithica in his abscence.

Just as Ulyses contemplated these thoughts the sounds of a battle interrupted the innocence from above.  Upon his childhood hill he spotted five pirates attacking one of the islanders.  Ulyses, Xena, and Gabrielle dashed up the hill into action quickly disposing of the disturbance and rescuing the native who was now lying on the ground.  Ulyses instantly recognized the victim as his old friend Mentacles.  At first Mentacles did not recognize Ulyses until he took a moment to study the face before him.  As soon as Mentacles realized who Ulyses was he immediately rose to his feet to greet his old friend with a strong embrace.  Mentacles spoke quickly with excitement asking if it really was Ulyses and not an apparition.  Ulyses confirmed with a bright smile that he was indeed alive and well.  Mentacles gratefully thanked the gods for Ulyses’s safe return has he smiled with joy.

Xena interrupted his declared celebration reminding everyone that her respect for the gods was not high.  She pridefully declared that it was not the gods, but the three companions together whom had triumphed returning to Ithica safely.  Gabrielle looked to Xena as if slightly irritated that the warrior princess could not contain her own ego.  Yet the moment of irritation passed as Ulyses looked to his new friends introducing them to his old friend Mentacles.  Ulyses then explained that Mentacles had grown up with he and Penelope.  The three had all been very close.  Gabrielle’s heart was tickled with warmth imagining two childhood sweethearts eventually marrying as young lovers.  The mood was contagious as Ulyses joked with Mentacles asking if he was crying after being beaten up by pirates.  Mentacles explained that his tears were of joy and not pain or sorrow for now Ulyses could reclaim his kingdom and be reunited with his lovely wife.

There was a sudden wave of emotional shock which swept its way through the small group.  Ulyses quickly responded reminding Mentacles that his wife had died, but Mentacles pressed further with more truth than anyone could fathom.  He explained that it was a lie.  Penelope was not deceased for he had only seen her just an hour before.  She was still full of sorrow over the loss of Ulyses, but very much alive.  Gabrielle then looked to Xena realizing that the warrior princess’s tree in the forrest was not Ulyses.  The warrior princess appeared upset at this new discovery, but not hurt.  It was not the fault of Ulyses that he had fallen in love with another for he had been told a lie most likely orchastrated by Poseiden himself.  With a serious tone Mentacles continued explaining to Ulyses that things in Ithica had changed a great deal since he had left.  As if Ulyses did not have enough to sort through in his heart Mentacles explained that Poseiden’s pirates were pressuring Penelope to take another suitor to replace Ulyses.  Mentacles continued explaining that all on the island had been led to believe that Ulyses had been killed as Ulyses had been tricked into believing that Penelope had been gone.

Gabrielle could see Ulyses’s sadness in knowing he now had more responsibility beyond that of saving Ithica from the pirates.  He now had to figure out how to let his heart release itself from love for Xena or release itself from Penelope.  Xena was understanding of Ulyses’s situation.  Instead of responding with anger or jealousy she responded by taking action.  She wanted to help Ulyses get his restore his kingdom and to release it from the swarming pirates.  Ulyses then asked Mentacles if the old moat still led under the castle.  Mentacles responded with uncertainty explaining the delapidated conditions of things without a leader to restore them.  Xena spoke up to take the lead in the situation.  With Ulyses’s hit with all new confusion the warrior princess took over.  She asked that Mentacles lead them to the old moat to check it out.  If it was still there she was ready to take action against the pirates and to help restore Ithica even if it meant losing her tree in the forrest.

By nightfall Ulyses and his companions had reached the old moat to discover that the secret passages beneath the castle were still clear.  The passages led them to a stairway which led up into the servants quarters where Ulyses instructed Gabrielle to collect some robes.  They would prepare to attend the banquet that was about to begin as servants and peasants.  A rumor had cirrculated about the kingdom that Penelope would choose a suitor on this night by a specific test.  The test was to see who in the kingdom would be the first man to be able to string Ulyses’s bow.  This proved that Penelope was a shrewd leader.  It was the perfect way to keep the kingdom from the pirates for Ulyses was the only man able to string it.  There was still hope for Ulyses to reclaim his kingdom yet he had different plans.

When Gabrielle had returned from the servants quarters back into the passage way where Ulyses and Xena conversed she over heard something unexpected.  It began with Ulyses explaining that he had spent ten years wanted to return to his home, but now that he had returned he sensed that it was no longer his home.  As a boy he loved Ithica more than life itself, but he had left to go to Troy as a boy and returned as a man.  When Xena asked him about Penelope he pushed on declaring that he did not love Penelope anymore and felt that he had never truely loved her.  There was a quiet moment of pause and then Ulyses declared his passionate love for Xena.  He explained that he loved Xena more than Ithica.  It was a strong statement to make for all that he had sacrificed to return to Ithica.  He explained that the kingdom of Ithica was no longer his, but belonged to Penelope.  Ulyses wanted to finish the journey that he had begun.  He wanted to rid Ithica of the pirates and then leave the kingdom to Penelope.  Then he would travel with Xena and Gabrielle for he desired this more than being king and protector of Ithica.

Xena had a retort ready.  She began by apologizing to Ulyses about being more honest.  Xena surrendered Ulyses to Penelope with little arguement.  She explained that she could never love Ulyses and that she liked her life as it was without him.  It was a weak retort and Gabrielle sensed that Ulyses could see right through it.  Ulyses argued with Xena knowing that she truely did have feelings for him.  He was not about to allow Xena to surrender them now.  Yet Xena was not about to steel love from another woman.  The warrior princess desired a chance for Ulyses and Penelope.  She realized that war, and revenge had kept them apart for too long already.

The warrior princess also knew that Ulyses could not see beyond the past several days that he had spent with Xena.  Gabrielle desparately wanted to step into the middle of this emotional crisis and help ease everyone’s confusion about this complex situation, but was stopped by Xena’s next choice.  With great regret and sadness Xena pulled out pain and delivered it with harsh words to Ulyses.  She shunned his love with aggression declaring that all of her flirtation and advances had been nothing more than a show.  The warrior princess declared that their passionate kiss on the night before had been nothing more than a fling for her.  She continued with embarressment for Ulyses delcaring that she herself had been embarressed by his romantic words to her.  Xena went on to say that she had chosen not to reject Ulyses then because she had not felt that he could handle her rejection.  Gabrielle knew the truth of this.  It had been Xena who was most concerned by being rejected by Ulyses.  Xena capped off her aggressive rejection of Ulyses explaining that he could never be her kind of lover.  For Ulyses it was as if the cross bow had gone through his heart.  The blow took the breath right out of him.  All he could do for a moment was stand still and stare at Xena in confusion.  Soon the confusion turned to emotional hurt and then Ulyses retreated back upstairs toward the servant’s quarters.

Gabrielle passed Ulyses returning to the bottom of the steps feeling his heartache within her own heart.  Yet she also felt Xena’s deep regret for the harsh rejection that she had chosen to deliver to him.  Gabrielle felt that there could have been a softer way to accomplish this, but she also understood why Xena had chosen to deal with Ulyses in this way.  The warrior princess was afraid for her own heart for if Ulyses caught sight of Penelope again it may be the end for Xena anyway.  It was in this moment that Gabrielle realized just how soft and genuine the heart of the warrior princess truely was.  It was fragile.  There was so much of it that needed repair for it could not handle the thought of losing someone it held dear.  Xena had not completely committed her heart.  Yet she had come very close with Ulyses.  Xena tried to reason outloud with Gabrielle her choice to hurt Ulyses in this way.  She explained that both Ulyses, and Penelope deserved a chance and a clean homecoming.  Gabrielle could not argue with this for the warrior princess was right.  Yet the bard had faith that Ulyses’s love was still true for the warrior princess.  She was certain that if things did not work out with Penelope that Ulyses would eventually understand why Xena had intentionally hurt him.  Gabrielle was certain that Ulyses was a smart man.  It seemed that this idea comforted Xena just a little as she allowed a small bit of hope to creep into her heart explaining that maybe the three of them would one day fight for the greater good.  The bard smiled and agreed with Xena that this idea was very appealing.  It seemed to her that Xena might release a tear and be vulnerable inside.  Xena quickly averted this by reminding the bard that it was now time to prepare for the real work and so the two dashed up the stairs to bring a triumphant close to the story of Ulyses.

The banquet had already begun by the time Xena and Gabrielle had arrived.  Ulyses had gone on ahead for it was clear that there was only one thing left for him to do.  He had to prove that he was the true ruler of Ithica.  No other man would be suited for the task.  As Xena and Gabrielle circulated the banquet hall playing their roles as servants Ulyses appeared as a peasant man.  The leader of the pirates declared that it was Poseiden’s will that a successor to Ulyses be chosen on this night.  Penelope faced his challenge with courage and dignity as she explained the rules of the contest again.  The pirate took the bow and tried desparately to string it, but found it took more strength than he could muster.  He found himself irritated and almost angry at Penelope declaring that no man would be able to accomplish the task except for Ulyses who had already died.  It was in that moment that Ulyses spoke up from beneath his robe.  He declared that he could do it.  When the pirate heard this from a peasant he struck down the peasant’s request.  The pirate did not want to face the possibility that a peasant could string a bow that he could not.

When the peasant’s request was struck down there was an urgancy brought on by Ulyses.  He ushered the crowd to join him in pushing for a chance for the peasants as well as the pirates and those who had wealth.  Penelope took this idea and decided that she would agree to it yet the pirate was not so enthusiastic.  He declared that he would agree on the condition that only the one peasant would be able to have a try.  Ulyses was confident as he approached the front of the banquet hall where Penelope stood.  He took the golden bow from the pirate and prepared to string it before the crowd.  As Gabrielle and Xena looked on with the crowd they watched the intense process.  Ulyses struggled to bend the bow down as he rested it upon the floor to string it.  His face struggled as his muscles tensed.  Then Gabrielle remembered why Ulyses was having trouble.  His injured shoulder was preventing him from commanding all of his strength necessary to string the bow.

It was in this moment that Xena decided that she would help Ulyses one final time.  She was inconspicuous as she dropped a golden cup of wine onto the floor kicking it underneath the banquet table.  The warrior princess then slipped beneath the table as Ulyses continued to struggle as he got closer and closer to winning the prize.  Just when it seemed that he had no strength left to hook the string onto the bow it began to bend slightly more.  Suddenly Ulyses gathered his last bit of strength and then triumphantly he hooked the string onto the top of the golden bow successfully winning back the kingdom of Ithica.  There was a sudden pandimonioum within the crowd as people began to talk amongst one another about the event that they had just witnessed.  Yet the pirate cut the noise with his loud proclaimation that the contest had been fixed by Penelope herself.  Before Penelope had a chance to try to defend herself Ulyses uncovered himself from disguise and declared that he was Ulyses king of Ithica.

Suddenly the pirates were ordered by their leader to charge forward to attack Ulyses.  The banquet hall broke into a battle of the pirates against the king of Ithica.  Ulyses grabbed an arrow from Penelope’s throne preparing it within his bow launching it through the hearts of three pirates as people screamed and scurried about it terror.  Ulyses was fierce with his weapon as was Xena when she used her chackram in battle.  Xena burst out of her disguise jumping onto the banquet table to assist Ulyses in the fight yet she allowed him to handle most of the battle on his own.  The warrior princess understood the need for Ulyses to prove his courage, skill, and bravery to his people in this final battle against the pirates.  After unleashing the fury of his bow Ulyses grabbed a blade and began an offensive against his enemy that was comparable to the skills of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle released herself from disguise to help finish the battle as she grabbed a chair for defense against her attacker.  Xena battled with only her fists and her thunderous kicks as Ulyses was displayed to be the true warrior of Ithica.  As the swift battle drew to a close and Ulyses triumphed Penelope’s happiness in being reunited filled the banquet hall.  It was in this moment that the warrior princess decided that it was time for the battling bard to slip out alongside her onto the next voyage together.

Although Xena had tried to leave the story of Ulyses to Ulyses and his beloved Penelope even Ulyses could not allow it for on the next day as the Warrior Princess and the battling bard were to set sail he came aboard seeking her company.  There was an uncomfortable moment of embarressment for the warrior princess knowing what she had put Ulyses through.  Despite that painful rejection of the night before and the chance at a night alone with his wife Ulyses was still certain of his feelings for Xena.  Indeed he was a smart man for he had realized what Xena had done for him was out of love and not rejection.  Ulyses appreciated Xena’s concern for his marriage to Penelope yet his heart still yearned for the company of the warrior princess.  Gabrielle looked on as the conversation transpired realizing although Ulyses loved Xena Xena truely could not allow her heart itself to him.  Xena had chosen this out of her own fears and insecurities.  She had decided for Ulyses that his path would not be with her.  They had not made the journey through Poseiden’s wrath only to leave Ithica again.  Ulyses belonged there with Penelope and he would learn to love her again.  Xena was not as harsh this time when she again rejected Ulyses.  She was soft and tender as she spoke to him wishing only to convey concern and friendship rather than pain and confusion.

It was not easy for Ulyses to accept that the warrior princess would not surrender her heart.  As he left the ship his heart was saddened realizing that it held responsibility.  Ulyses was no longer a boy and could not afford the luxuries of a young man.  It was in this moment that the man had truely returned home from his long journey away from home.  The man would learn to love Ithica again and alongside Penelope he would restore it to its splendor once more.  Gabrielle watched as the ship began to turn
away from Ithica and Xena called out to the crew.  She saw the uncertainty of two young lovers as they waived good-bye to their newfound friends.  Finally Gabrielle approached Xena still confused that Xena sacrificed her happiness to someone she did not know.  Xena’s answer was simple.  Her heart was rewarded in knowing that she had helped Ulyses win back his kingdom and the life that he would have with the woman who courageously stood up to the pirates in the abscence of her beloved king.  As for the story behind it all Xena felt that it was only worth telling if it were the story of Ulyses and how he bent his golden bow to save the people of Ithica.

The Xena Scrolls: Volume #2: Scroll #43: Been There…Done That

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#43:  Been There…Done That

April, 47 B.C.

        If today was actually yesterday for the warrior princess then for all others today is today because no one else can remember that yesterday was actually today.  Is it the furies?  No.  Has baby bliss escaped cupid’s attention again?  No.  It seems that the warrior princess has been suffering from some type of stress which has caused her to go bonkers it would appear.  Despite all of these thoughts and ideas the bard of Potedia had decided that she will tell the story as told by the warrior princess herself.  However, going against the first rule of the bard’s scrolls Gabrielle can not write what she knows for the following events did not actually occur within her own reality. 

       On the first time today occurred for the warrior princess she awoke within the village horse stables to the sound of a rooster crowing.  Just as she would come out of slumber sitting up slowly the stable door would open allowing the bright sunrise to blind her eyes.  This would cause Xena to try to block the sudden brightness with her hand.  She found this rather annoying, but what always made it worse was that the person who would enter after the door opened was Joxer.  He would shout out at the top of his joyful lungs that it was time for everyone to rise and to shine.  Joxer would repeat this statement twice everytime.  The warrior princess would begin to reach for her wrist plates realizing that it was time to get up anyway.  Just about that moment Gabrielle would be grumpy and defiant of Joxer’s interruption of slumber.  She would comment that she would rise, but she would never shine.  Then Joxer would declare that he had fetched breakfast for everyone.  His choice was not anyone’s favorite and no one ever appeared to get very excited about goose eggs.  The idiot would hold out his great find triumphantly and in the next moment it would happen.  A large horseshoe would seemingly fall out of the sky and knock the idiot squarely on the forehead.  It would bounce off of his forehead and into his hat full of goose eggs.  The chain reaction would cause his goose eggs to spladder all over his face which would amuse both Xena and the bard everytime it happened.

      There would be a long pause as Xena would look up to see where the horseshoe came from and there in the stable loft would be a Menos stableman who would hope that he had not hit anything.  Xena would never comment on this, but Gabrielle would always state that it was nothing important.  Then both Xena and Gabrielle would rise dusting off the hay that they had slept in the night before.  Xena would ask the stabbleman where she could get shoes for her horse.  The stableman would answer that the Likos blacksmith across town could do it, but he wouldn’t be able to shoe Xena’s horse.  Then he continued explaining that he could shoe Xena’s horse, but he would not be able to pick up the shoes for the blacksmith was from a rival house.  Xena would have to pick up the shoes and bring them back to the stable herself.  The warrior princess stated that she thought this to be ridiculous, but it was just another minor annoyance like Joxer. 

     Then Xena would leave the stables with Gabrielle and Joxer to go seek out the blacksmith for the horseshoes.  Gabrielle would attempt to find a way to ditch Joxer.  The warrior princess was aware of how the bard was not so fond of having the extra travel companion.  For Xena he was annoying and in the way, but these were minor issues to her.  Gabrielle would always try to trick Joxer into going to get some more goose eggs to replace the ones that had been ruined by the falling horseshoe.  She would begin by telling Xena she was going to get the eggs.  Joxer would then beg to go with her.  He would always tell Gabrielle that retrieving goose eggs was a task too dangerous to accomplish alone.  Then Gabrielle would agree with Joxer and say that Xena should go get the eggs.  The bard was really hoping to stick Xena with Joxer while she could enjoy a pieceful morning without his company.  It had been a few weeks of putting up with his antics.  Everyone’s nerves were shot.  This could explain Xena’s repeating day. 

     Despite that the conversation would continue with Joxer feeling as if the bard were insulting his warrior talents.  Joxer would whine about how he had been the one who had retrieved the first batch of goose eggs.  Xena could see that Joxer was desparate to prove himself and impress Gabrielle.  If he could be more warriorlike he was certain that he would get his prize.  The warrior princess knew that Gabrielle was definitely not into Joxer that way, but it was an entertaining exchange.  Joxer would turn off of the path and walk up a set of stairs ranting to himself about being the man to send on a goose egg hunt.  Then he would nearly fall off the side of the village walls before realizing that he had not been paying attention.   Xena was certain that he was lovestruck for Gabrielle.  Gabrielle just liked to point out Joxer’s mishaps.  She was not about to be replaced by the idiot as Xena’s sidekick.  Then Joxer would calmly walk back down the steps and suggest to everyone that he would take the safer surface streets to accomplish his important goose egg mission. 

     Gabrielle would be delighted that she had succeeded in sending him away as she and Xena would be at peace without his presence.  Xena would then ask her what she was going to do when Joxer came back with goose eggs beyond her wildest dreams.  Gabrielle did not like goose eggs.  Gabrielle would never think that far ahead with her plan and her response was always a laugh at Xena’s question.  Just before the bard would have time to think about her comeback the conversation would be interrupted by two men in the town square having an argument.  On the first day Xena only heard the beginning of the argument.  Tybolis demanded of the Menos house where they learned to drive their carts.  The Likos man would respond saying regretfully that he had heard about Caska and that it was a terrible accident.  Tybolis then aggressively approached  the young Menos gentleman and he would push for the duel certain that there were no accidents between the two houses.  On the first day Xena drug Gabrielle away from the fight on down the street for she was not going to get involved in this personal issue between two men.  She sensed that it was going to get ugly and though Gabrielle was fascinated Xena would not allow the bard to dwell on it. 

     Xena then turned the corner with Gabrielle hearing the men draw their weapons and one of them apparently did not want to fight.  It was none of Xena’s concern so she moved on alongside Gabrielle as they looked for the blacksmith who could sell Xena some shoes for Argo.  Neither Xena nor Gabrielle exchanged any words.  It appeared to the warrior princess that even Gabrielle had picked up the art of paying attention to one’s surroundings no matter how insignificant.  Xena heard the other man respond in the distance demanding that his rival defend himself.  There was the clashing of swords and then there was the voice of a third man.  It was Joxer who interjected.  Xena heard Joxer state the names of both houses and ask them candidly what was in a name.  Before Xena could think her body acted as she grabbed Gabrielle without thinking and both of them turned to stop Joxer from making a mistake.  The warrior princess was certain of the consequences of getting involved in a family fued.  Joxer the idiot had just put himself in mortal danger and he wasn’t capable of defending himself against it. 

     As Xena dashed around the corner and gazed down the street she saw the two dueling men standing with their swords resting and Joxer standing in the middle of them.  There was not a sound and all was silent as Xena shouted his name across the street.  As she approached the motionless Joxer the two dueling men began to sheath their weapons.  It appeared that Joxer had succeeded at stopping the duel which was odd to the warrior princess.  Then Xena heard Gabrielle call out to Joxer as she approached the scene behind the warrior princess.  In that moment Xena noticed that Joxer had been mortally wounded as Gabrielle suggested with concern in her voice that she thought that Joxer had gone to get the goose eggs.  It appeared that Gabrielle was about to scold Joxer for his stupidity, but Xena realized that there would be no scolding this time.  She was uncertain of how Gabrielle would take Joxer’s death.  Xena was lost for words. 

Xena turned to Gabrielle as the bard approached.  Then Joxer turned around slowly to face Gabrielle as if he wanted to apologize for getting wounded.  Xena watched helplessly as Gabrielle could suddenly see the gaping hole through Joxer’s stomach.  It was bleeding a lot.  Joxer was in shock as he looked to Gabrielle and then looked at his hand as if he could not speak.  Then his eyes rolled back into his head as he began to fall into Gabrielle’s arms.  The bard could not support Joxer’s limp weight as she fell to the ground with his lifeless body.  She called his name again as they fell together and then picked his head up and put it into her lap.  Xena could see that now Gabrielle was in shock over this sudden unexpected loss.  Gabrielle spoke softly to Joxer hoping to bring him back into consciousness, but Xena knew that he was gone.  The bard patted his face gently attempting to wake him from death’s grip, but there was nothing that could be done to save him now.  Gabrielle began to cry as tears rolled down her face.  Xena looked down upon Joxer and then into her friend’s eyes with regret.  The warrior princess knew that she should have gone back to get Joxer as soon as she sensed the trouble between the two houses.  If being more careful would have saved both of her friends the warrior princess would have gladly done it over again.

      Xena hurt inside for Gabrielle’s pain over the loss.  The warrior princess and the bard spent the rest of the day preparing a funeral fire for Joxer.  Argo’s shoes seemed unimportant now.  They would have to wait for a better day.  By the time the sun began to set Xena, Argo, and Gabrielle had left town.  They had built a beautiful funeral fire upon the lake where they laid Joxer to rest.  Xena sang her beautiful funeral song.  It was the song she had sung for Marcus she said.  As Xena had finished singing alongside Gabrielle the bard looked to her friend and spoke of her guilt.  Gabrielle blamed herself for Joxer’s death for she had been the one who had sent him away to search for goose eggs that she hadn’t even wanted.  The warrior princess wanted to ease her friend’s guilt explaining that Joxer had died a hero just the way he had always wanted to die.  There was no one to blame for the warrior princess knew that because of Joxer’s death he had stopped a family fued from errupting into a death nightmare for an entire town. 

      Xena sensed someone was watching them within their grief.  She looked back into the brush in the distance.  It was lit up by the fire.  She noticed that there was a young couple standing there.  They seemed saddened for the loss of Joxer despite having not known him.  Xena noted within her mind that she had seen the young girl earlier back in the street.  Joxer had saved her lover from his own death.  It seemed they were appreciative of Joxer’s sacrifice.  Xena then looked to Gabrielle and embraced her friend suggesting that they get some rest.  Gabrielle was doubtful that she would be able to sleep through her heavy grief.  Xena would not allow Gabrielle to continue to blame herself.  The warrior princess was well aware of her friend’s heavy conscience.  Xena laid down with Gabrielle and continued to embrace her friend.  It was obvious to the warrior princess that her friend was emotionally exhausted as she stroked Gabrielle’s hair softly.  Gabrielle snuggled up next to her friend closer.  The bard touched the warrior princess softly as if trying to hold onto what she had left within the moment.  Xena softly spoke to her friend whispering to her to sleep for in the morning the pain would hurt less.  The warrior princess only hoped that she would be able to help Gabrielle through the guilt.  It would be a rough task.  The friends fell into sleep together to the sound of the crackling funeral fire. 

      Suddenly there was that familiar irritating sound of a rooster crowing in the morning.  Xena’s eyes popped open.  Her first thought directed itself into figuring out why there would be a rooster in the middle of the woods.  Then she looked around and focased in noticing that she was waking up in the stables.  The warrior princess was not certain if she was even awake for she had fallen into slumber in the woods the day before.  Then the warrior princess rose and stuck her hand into the hay attempting to awaken Gabrielle.  She needed to know that she was truly awake.  Xena spoke Gabrielle’s name,  but didn’t get a response.  Her hand could not even find the bard within the pile of hay.  Then the door creeked open again as the sunlight blinded the warrior princess like the day before.  Her body reacted as it had the day before as her hand rose to block the sunlight from her eyes.  Joxer appeared again repeating twice the statement to rise and shine just like yesterday.  Xena was in shock and extremely confused by this.  Nothing made sense yet everything was exactly like yesterday. 

       It didn’t matter as long as Joxer was alive.  The warrior princess jumped up with excitement as she spoke Joxer’s name.  She repeated his name stating the facts.  He should have been dead according to what had transpired on the day before.  Joxer’s response was candid as usual.  He said that he should have died a thousand deaths.  Then he hyped himself up as usual explaining that he had skill and nerves of steel.  Xena did not care as long as he had not died.  She grabbed him joyfully and gave him a friendly head rub as if he were Lycious her little brother.  The warrior princes suddenly felt playful and light as a child.  She pretended to play fight him only to find that Joxer was confused by her behavior so she decided that she had better explain.  The warrior princess began to tell Joxer the tale of her dream as Gabrielle began to rise up slowly out of the hay  from her slumber.  Then the bard said exactly what she had said in the dream about rising and refusing to shine.  Joxer responded to Gabrielle gleefully again telling everyone about his goose eggs.  Xena realized that there was more to her dream than she could understand.  She pushed Joxer and commanded him to step back for she was certain that the horseshoe falling out of the sky would come next. 

     Joxer complained about Xena’s response to the goose eggs and told her she didn’t have to eat the goose eggs.  Then the horseshoe fell only this time it fell onto Joxer’s toes which caused him to drop his hat full of eggs onto the ground as he grabbed his foot in pain and hopped about.  Then the stabbleman appeared as before and hoped that he had not hit anything.  Xena realized that she had not dreamed the events of yesterday because yesterday had really happened.  Gabrielle responded by saying that the stableman had not hit anything important and so the day began again.  Xena decided that she had better tell everyone what had happened, but no one seemed to remember.  Even Gabrielle had seemingly forgotten about yesterday.  Joxer appeared pleased that he was a hero as he continued to hype himself up.

      Xena led the group down the street again for she still needed horseshoes for Argo.  As they walked Joxer continued to talk about his warrior senses as he juggled Argo’s old shoes despite tripping over his own feet.  As usual Gabrielle ignored his attempts at swooning her.  The bard was more interested in Xena’s dream which was no surprise to the warrior princess.  Both Gabrielle and Xena stepped over Joxer who was face down on the ground now.  Gabrielle suggested to Xena that her dream may have been a vision.  Xena was certain that it was more than a vision for the experience for her had been too real to dismiss in that way.  The warrior princess thought that it was more likely for Gabrielle to have a vision than herself.  As the two thought of the riddle before them Joxer interjected that it might be his own dream that they were within.  Xena continued to wrack her mind with the evidence of the riddle as Gabrielle had grow annoyed with Joxer.  She began pinching the idiot carelessly battering his confidence as she often did.  The bard asked Joxer if he could feel her pinching him as he cried out in pain.  He responded with an affirmation and then Gabrielle walked away proving her point to him that he was not dreaming. 

      Then Gabrielle rejoined Xena up ahead confirming with Xena that she had actually forgotten all of the events of the previous day.  Xena turned around frustrated with Gabrielle for she had not just forgotten.  The warrior princess was certain that none of the events of the previous had happened to anyone, but her.  Gabrielle’s response was typical as she stated the facts.  If the day before had never happened then what was there to forget.  Xena realized that Gabrielle had a point, but she wasn’t quite sure how to elaborate further to come to an understanding with her friend.  Xena sensed that Gabrielle thought she might be going crazy, but Xena was certain that she was not crazy.  She reiterated that today did happen.  Gabrielle argued with Xena that today had not happened yet.  Xena’s frustration with her new situation was growing.  She insisted to her friends that today had happened to her despite everyone’s lack of knowledge.  Gabrielle responded by stating that today was yesterday.  Xena explained that it wasn’t yesterday, but the other today.  Xena felt that maybe Gabrielle was beginning to understand despite this breakdown in communication.  The bard was smarter than she had thought. 

      Then Gabrielle put it all together within one statement.  She said that today was actually yesterday for Xena, but for the rest of the world today was today because no one could remember that yesterday was today.  Xena was impressed as she gave the affirmation that Gabrielle’s complex jumble of words explained it all.  Just when Xena was certain that she was getting somewhere within the conversation Gabrielle said that she still didn’t understand what Xena was saying.  Xena could not believe it, but then it got worse.  Joxer interjected a thought.  He suggested that maybe everyone’s reality was just in someone else’s head and that the other someone was making up their day and their lives.  Everyone was quiet for a moment and Joxer was excited for he thought that he had made sense, but he hadn’t.  Xena wrote off Joxer’s idea and resorted to asking Gabrielle again why she couldn’t remember Joxer’s death.  That was the most real part of the day to Xena.  It was too emotionally painful to have been a dream, or a vision, or something other than a real day. 

      She decided that a description of the event might jar a memory from with the bard.  Xena spoke of the sword plunging through Joxer’s heart into his chest which was covered with blood as his eyes stared blankly into the sky.  Gabrielle just appeared more puzzled as Xena continued her description.  Joxer appeared appaulled by all of this as he imagined himself within this scenario.  He gabbed his chest and almost fainted in the exact same way Xena had witnessed it the day before.  Gabrielle had been there too, but she didn’t seem to be able to recall the experience in the slightest.  Joxer had fallen to the ground by this point as Xena continued hoping to remind Gabrielle of the beautiful funeral they had prepared for Joxer.  Gabrielle had cried for Joxer as Joxer stood back up excited at the idea that the bard could have an emotional response to his death.  The bard appeared very frustrated with Xena for the warrior princess was so certain that Gabrielle had experienced things that to Gabrielle had never happened.  Gabrielle was so irritated at Xena and Joxer that she couldn’t remember these things about herself.  She decided to give up on trying to relate to Xena and suggested that she would go get her own goose eggs for the road.  Joxer decided that he would go with Gabrielle, but Xena stopped everyone.  She was not about to screw up the day again.  The warrior princess was determined to keep Joxer from getting killed, and Gabrielle from having to feel guilty about it.  Xena decided that all of them would stick together for the day to avoid the tragedy that was certain to happen if they did not.

      Then the Likos, Menos duel began to fire up right on queue.  Joxer responded remembering this part of the story from earlier as he looked to the two friends.  He could not believe that they would think that he would be stupid enough to step into the middle of a feud.  Gabrielle did not hesitate to answer with an affirmation as Xena agreed with her from personal experience.  Xena decided that she had better stop the duel herself as Joxer had the day before.  His death had prevented an all out family war.  She instructed Gabrielle and Joxer to go wait for her in the alley.  Joxer complained citing that he was Joxer the Mighty and that he did not need to go to an alley to be protected.  Gabrielle followed Xena’s order as she usually did without question.  That was the one thing Xena could count on from the bard if nothing else.  Xena approached the dueling men as they went through their argument word by familiar word. 

      Just as Xena was stopping one fight she heard another beginning in the alley behind her. That was where Joxer and Gabrielle and gone.  Swords were unshealthed as Gabrielle’s voice shouted out reacting to the scene.  Someone accused Joxer of insulting his house.    Xena heard Joxer’s voice again as he mentioned Menos and Likos and stated what was in a name.  Xena turned around to notice that the entire town was gathering at the corner near the alley.  She was irritated now for she had to hurry if she was going to save her friends.  Both were certain to die today.  She cursed herself as she flipped into action.  The crowd was larger than on the day before.  It was blocking her from running into the alley.  She flipped over the crowd for it was her only option as she gave her battle cry and landed right into the middle of the duel.  Yet she was too late for the next things he saw was a sword plunging into one of the strangers in the duel.  It was an unpleasant sight even for a seasoned warrior. 

     Xena quickly snapped out of that moment as she heard another man state that the other family was hiring mercenaries to do its killing.  The other older gentleman responded coldly as he denied that his family would hire mercenaries to do a job that they would gladly do themselves.  The other man responded back declaring that they were now at a full scale war.  His enemy was not disappointed at the declaration as the two older men drew their swords preparing to duel each other.  Xena decided that it must be the family feud that was meant to be stopped.  She drew her weapon and apologized for her action in advance.  The warrior princess kicked the weapons of the dueling parties and then destroyed them as the fell to the ground.  No one was going to duel anymore if she could stop it.  Everyone appeared confused at Xena’s actions, but the warrior princess was certain that stopping the family war and saving Joxer were the things she needed to do to get out of this terrible day. 

      Xena commanded everyone to go home until they could learn to get along.  One of the elders was unhappy about her interference.  He did not know Xena, but did not much care for her.  The man had written her off as a sworn enemy.  He declared that she was now with the other side despite Xena’s having no relation to either house what so ever.  This posed a new problem.  The warrior princess realized that the three of them would have to be extremely cautious for the rest of the day as long as they were still in town.  They had become part of the fued unwillingly.  As Xena watched the people of the family who lost another to the feud she felt sadness knowing that she could have saved him if she had just stuck to her original plan of staying together at all times.  Trying to stop the original feud meant nothing.  Suddenly Gabrielle expressed her amazement at Xena’s predictions.  She could not believe how exact Xena’s description of the events had been.  Gabrielle reminded Xena that her second chance to save Joxer had succeeded.  Joxer interjected with confidence that he had the situation under control, but if he had then no one would have died.  Someone did die.  Xena made her concerns for their safety known reminding everyone that they were now the enemy.  Every step made would have to be made with care.  Joxer seemed to be unaware of the seriousness as he always was. 

    After retrieving the new shoes for Argo from the blacksmith Xena, Joxer, and Gabrielle returned to the stable.  Gabrielle was certain that they would be free from the wrath of the village feud as soon as they had returned, but it turned out to be wrong.  Xena saw the stableboy had been seriously wounded as he lay struggling outside the door.  When Xena asked him what had happened he only said that he would not tell them which horse was hers.  Xena was afraid of what she might hear next as he explained regretfully that the rival house had killed all of the horses in the stable.  Xena quickly entered the stable calling out to her horse.  Her eyes scanned the scene of devastation to find that her worst fears were confirmed.  Argo her beautiful faithful horse was lying on the floor of the stable in a pool of blood.  She had been killed by a sword plunged through her heart just like all of the other horses.  Xena’s emotions ran high.  This time she was the one who had broken down as Gabrielle and Joxer tried to comfort her. 

     The three of them prepared a beautiful funeral fire for Argo in the lake as Xena had described for Joxer.  There was a lot of silence for the rest of the evening as Xena sat before the camp fire trying to figure out what went wrong.  Somehow there had to be a solution in which the day would end and no one would die.  Xena desparately wanted today to end, but she hoped for today again so that she could do it over again to save both Joxer and Argo.  As Gabrielle stood silent watching her friend suffer inside Joxer felt the guilt this time.  He told Xena that if the day did repeat again he would not want Xena to save him instead of Argo.  Joxer was offering his life to Xena if that was what would save her horse.  His gesture was of a true friend.  This was what Xena loved most about Joxer.  She did not blame him for the death of her horse.  If she had not tried to stop three duels no one would have tried to destroy her horse. 

     On the third day Xena awoke again with the rooster crowing.  She rose and looked about the stable and saw Argo’s beautiful eyes staring back at her lovingly.  Xena called to her horse, but just as she did the door swung open again, the beams of sunlight blinded her and Joxer appeared cheerfully with his goose eggs.  Gabrielle slowly rose from the dead of sleep complaining about rising and refusing to shine.  Xena asked Joxer to move.  The idiot was confused and asked why he should move.  Xena just commanded him to move again.  Again Joxer defied her order.  That was his problem.  Xena realized that his defiance of command and constant questioning of her authority was the reason he had died in the first place.  She decided that he could just get another horseshoe on the head.  He would have to learn the hard way.  Again the horseshoe knocked him on the head, but this time Xena noticed something different.  When his head had fallen into the goose eggs in his hat one had actually gone into his mouth which he spit out.  He looked a little goofy. 

     Then the Likos stableman hoped he didn’t hit anyone.  It was the same exact morning as the previous two.  She had not succeeded in moving forward to the next day.  All Xena could do was run through everyone’s predictable words out loud.  She was trying to figure out if there were any obvious clues with in action or words.  Both Gabrielle and Joxer again looked at Xena astonished by her insights.  Xena had to go through the entire story again for the second time to get everyone up to speed.  Again the bard thought Xena was losing it.  As they walked toward the blacksmith shop the conversation continued.  Gabrielle suggested that it might be a poison dart causing Xena to have these delusions.  Xena insisted that it was not her.  The day was just repeating itself.  Gabrielle’s response was sarcastic as she responded by telling the warrior princess that she hated when days repeated themselves.  It was obvious to Xena that Gabrielle did not believe her.  Xena needed Gabrielle’s help if she were going to solve the riddle, but she was beginning to realize that spending precious time to explain everything everyday was getting to be a pain.  She was certain now that she had to stop the village from itself.  Xena was repeating the day because she had to prevent the war. 

      The warrior princess was certain that only something that she could control was causing the day to repeat itself.  Gabrielle just reached out to her friend checking her for illness certain that Xena was going off the deep end over stress.  Then Gabrielle asked her what she thought made her so important.  Xena was extremely irritated with Gabrielle’s disrespect.  The bard was grouchy from having been awakened too soon.  That she could blame on Joxer as Xena swatted Gabrielle’s hands away in frustration.  No one could remember yesterday’s version of today or of two yesterdays.  Gabrielle wanted to calm Xena down, but didn’t know how as Joxer interjected another one of his idiodic ideas.  The good thing was that he agreed that Xena might be onto something with the feud.  Joxer was certain that he had the solution that would end it all.  He said the enemy of his enemy was his friend. 

      Xena was certain that if Gabrielle didn’t agree about the events of repeating days then she would at least agree that Joxer was insane too.  Joxer just smiled and waited for approval from everyone.  Gabrielle’s sarcasm shifted back to Joxer and away from Xena.  She asked him who the enemy might be although everyone knew the answer to that question.  Joxer did not dissapoint with his response.  He said that the three friends were the enemy.  Joxer continued to describe his master plan.  First they would all declare that they were the enemy and get the houses to unite.  Once the two houses were united then they could throw down their weapons and everyone could join one another in peace.  Joxer was disappointed when no one approved of his idea.  He was certain it would work reminding the friends that they often bonded over their mutual hatred of him.  Joxer hugged everyone as Gabrielle agreed with his last point.  Xena agreed with it too, but Joxer’s plan was not the way to stop the fight.  She felt that the only way to stop this nasty feud was to diffuse it at the source before it started.   Xena had to figure out how to break the cycle. 

       Just as the warrior princess was wracking her brain with all of the details she had learned so far she heard a man shout out the name Miron.  The man had been looking for him.  It was the same initial duel that kicked everything into motion everyday.  It always happened just as the three friends were passing by toward the black smith shop.  Xena listened more closely this time for she needed to know the details of the root of this fight.  She heard the insult about the Menos not being able to drive a cart again and then she heard the name Caska as clear as day.  Caska had to be the answer and the solution.  Xena was certain that she had to learn more about Caska so that she could save him, ending the duel for no one would have any reason to fight.  This would end the feud, the fighting, and create a day without a bloodbath.  Xena was relieved for she finally had her answer. 

     On the fourth morning Xena had never gone to sleep.  She had stayed up all night just to see if maybe she could keep the day from happening if she never went to sleep.  Anything was worth a try, but the sun rose, the rooster crowed, and Joxer opened the door to the stable again.  Xena decided her next course of action was to save Caska.  She jumped up from the hay bowled right through Joxer as if he weren’t even there and dashed out the door of the stable.  The warrior princess had been wasting precious time explaining herself to people who could never remember yesterday anyway.  She was determined to use her time wisely today.  As Xena approached the main road she heard the sounds of hooves, and a creaky cart.  She glanced across the street and saw an old man moving slowly with a walking stick.  It was obvious that he could not hear the approaching traffic or the three women who were screaming his name from across the street.  There was not enough time for Xena to save him unless she flipped out into the street and yanked him out of the path of the horse drawn cart.  Xena did it without another thought and saved Caska from the oncoming traffic.  He appeared to be startled, but soon noticed that his hat had fallen into the road and been run over by the Menos cart.  The warrior princess felt as if she had finally succeeded in stopping the outbreak of violence with this simple act.  She asked Caska if he were okay, but Caska could not even hear her from a breath away.  Xena repeated the question a little louder and more slowly.  Caska finally answered that he was okay, but instead of being thankful that he had survived he appeared more disoriented and extremely upset about the wreckless Menos driver who had run over his hat with the horse cart.  Xena was amazed at these seemingly clueless families.  She watched Caska grumpily pick up his hat and shake his fist at the Menos driver. 

       Xena decided that her work was done for the moment, but there was still the problem of getting Argo’s shoes.  She also knew that by the time she returned to the stable both Joxer and Gabrielle would be awake.  When she returned they were bickering probably because Gabrielle hated goose eggs and Joxer had ripped her from her blissful dream state.  Gabrielle’s first question to Xena was where she had gone.  Xena decided they had an entire day to kill so she told her story of the three yesterdays again and of what had transpired so far today.  As they walked through the town Gabrielle seemed confused like on every other morning for she could not grasp or remember that the same day had happened to Xena four times now.  She asked if Xena really did wake up in the stable every morning.  Xena confirmed with little excitement that this was true as Joxer continued to juggle Argo’s horseshoes which was what had started the fight that caused the Likos man to die on the second yesterday.  Joxer interjected his idiotic thoughts again suggesting that he help Xena stay up all night so that the day could not happen again.  Then Joxer began to sing his irritating sleep song to the warrior princess who was extremely tired and grouchy by this point.  She had already tried that and obviously it did not stop the day from repeating itself. 

     Xena could not take it anymore.  She snapped at Joxer although she felt the need to thank him for his attempts at helping her solve the problem for his idea had not been a bad one it just didn’t work.  Then Xena continued to express her frustrations to her friends stating that she had felt as if she had tried everything.  Despite her efforts it was still today.  Gabrielle interjected with her usual confusion trying to make sense of everything that made no sense.  Just before Gabrielle could ask Xena who she thought could be causing her the trouble Xena stated that it was not Ares, the fates, or something that she had eaten for Gabrielle had asked her all of those questions on the previous days.  Xena also knew that Gabrielle would ask her if poison darts were the cause or baccae bites for that would be Joxer’s next question.  Gabrielle would try to ask more questions, but they were always the same and Xena was tired of hearing the same questions everyday that only she knew the answers to.  Gabrielle looked to her friend frustrated that she could not get a word in when Joxer asked the first new question.  He asked if Xena had a hicky on her neck.  The warrior princess was surprised at Joxer’s observations, but ignored them.  She grabbed Gabrielle by the arm and gave her the facts.  Whether Gabrielle was going to believe her today or not Xena was certain that it had all happened before.  Xena then finished her statement explaining that she hoped by saving Caska today would finally end.

     Just then Xena heard Tybolis shout out to Miron the young Menos boy that was becoming quite familiar to the warrior princess.  Tybolis said angerly that he had been looking for Miron.  His next statement was new.  He demanded that Miron keep his eyes off of his cousin for she wanted nothing to do with Miron.  It appeared that the family feud was far worse than Xena had realized for it seemed that these young men would find any little excuse to fight one another.  Xena spoke her thoughts outloud to Gabrielle and Joxer who both were still unconvinced of Xena’s experiences.  The warrior princess turned her attention back to the fight for she wanted to see what else was different now that she had saved Caska.  Miron responded with more anger and force this time than at any other previous fight.  He was emotionally attatched to Tybolis’s cousin.  Miron pushed Tybolis across the square and asked him to allow his cousin to make her own decisions.  At that point the duel was on as the men drew their weapons with the passion for killing each other over a silly love affair. 

     Xena kept thinking outloud explaining that it would take more than saving Caska to end the hatred the Likos and Menos houses had for one another.  In the next moment Joxer interjected another one of his lame ideas.  He started babbling on again about the enemy of his enemy being his friend.  Before he could finish the desparate screams of a young woman came from across the street on the other side of the duel.  Xena observed this realizing that she must be the cousin and the lover.  As the duel continued Xena suddenly realized that she had to stop the fight for Tybolis had the advantage of strength and experience.  He would most certainly kill Miron in a matter of moments which wouldn’t be good for anyone.  Xena comanded Gabrielle to get Joxer to safety and pushed them toward the alley.  Joxer complained about not wanting to go to the alley again and then Xena mad her move into the middle of the fight  She walked straight for the swords and pushed them down.  Then Xena punched Miron sending him to the ground and kicked Tybolis down.  Xena looked up when she heard Joxer declare that he was a warrior as she watched her friends round the corner into the alley.  Suddenly Xena realized that she had made another mistake.  She had allowed herself to get separated from Gabrielle, and Joxer sending them straight into the second duel.

    As Xena began to dash toward the second duel she heard Gabrielle shout out to Joxer attempting to stop him from making the same idiotic mistake he had made on the second day.  Just as Xena rounded the corner she witnessed a new tragedy.  There standing at the end of the alley was Joxer, the two rival houses, and Gabrielle.  The bard was audibly struggling for her last breath as Xena watched the Likos man release his sword from her stomach.  As the sword slid out and Gabrielle’s stomach gaped open with blood flowing red Xena shouted out to her friend panicked.  Xena quickly approached the scene of the battle only this time it was Joxer who had survived to collapse in emotional shock.  He fell to the ground with Gabrielle’s limp body as she fought death’s grip, but could not hold on.  Gabrielle’s eyes rolled back and then stared blankly into the sky as Xena held her friend’s lifeless body helpless to save the bard now.  Xena was hurting and feeling the real emotional pain of her new loss as was Joxer, but the warrior princess promised Joxer that it would be alright.  The day would most certainly repeat itself for Xena was certain that this was not the outcome the fates had written for Gabrielle.  Xena looked about fighting the emotional anguish in her heart.  Her soul was ripping away as was Joxer’s.  The day ended with a funeral fire like on the first and the second yesterdays only it was Gabrielle who had died this time.  Again Joxer expressed his guilt for Gabrielle’s death offering his life to the warrior princess in exchange for Gabrielle.  The two fell asleep to the sounds of the crackling funeral fire and the warmth of its flames.

    Five times the rooster crowed and Xena awoke from her slumber.  The reality if Xena’s fresh loss was still with her as she sat up from within the pile of hay.  It took a moment for Xena to realize that she was back at the stable again.  Then she slowly looked over and reached into the hay hoping that she would find Gabrielle alive and well.  There was a person underneath and it felt like Gabrielle.  It wasn’t until Xena could hear the sound of Gabrielle’s yawning voice that she was certain that it was today again and that Gabrielle had not died.  The warrior princess stood up and reached deep into the pile of hay.  She pulled the limp body of her friend out of its slumber and hugged Gabrielle tightly with delight.  There was so much to be thankful for and Xena was overwhelmed with joy and relief.  Gabrielle was disoriented by this sudden rush of emotion coming from within the warrior princess.  Joxer opened the door again, but before he could finish telling everyone to rise and shine he noticed the joy and wanted to share it with his friends.  His goose eggs went onto the floor along with his hat as he shouted out at the top of his voice his desire to join everyone in happieness.  His face broke a large goofy smile as he swept both Xena and Gabrielle up into his arms.  Her embrace of Gabrielle had turned into a love fest free for all.  Gabrielle was annoyed and expressed it openly to Joxer.  For a moment Xena did not care, but then she realized that she had to pull herself together.  The warrior princess kicked him off like a fly, but he returned as if unphased by the rejection.  Next the horseshoe fell again knocking him upon his head.

    Again Xena went through the entire scenario as the three friends walked through the town on the way to the blacksmith shop.  The warrior princess was so frustrated with her personal hades that she began just going over the details of the day without trying to convince Gabrielle who would never be convinced of the repeating day she could not remember.  Joxer always offered his insights and though they were idiotic Xena was desparate to try anything.  On the fifth morning he suggested that the rooster was Xena’s problem.  Xena had never remembered him saying that before, but that was because she would normally ignore Joxer.  Today would not allow her to ignore anyone or any small detail.  She could not afford that luxury anymore and so on the sixth morning Xena had stayed up all night again so that she could kill the rooster with her chackram at sunrise.  Once that was done Xena decided to sleep the day away since there was nothing more she could do to stop it from happening.

    Despite having a nice long rest from the madness of the repeating day Xena was yet again awakened by the sound of the rooster’s crowing.  It was now day seven of today and Xena went through the entire story all over again with her friends who didn’t believe her or offered only stupid advice that solved nothing.  Xena was determined to keep her friends out of danger.  She ordered them to stay near the stable so that they would be out of the way of the duels.  Joxer argued complaining about Xena’s command.  Gabrielle was frustrated with his questions determining that Xena had a good reason and that it would be explained to them all later.  It was clear that Gabrielle still thought Xena was a babbling lunatic, but Xena did not care.  Her main concern was to convince Joxer to stay.  He thought for a moment that she was using him as a diversion for the enemy until he thought that it would be better if he were positioned on the other side of the court.  Xena decided that the only way to keep the two of them busy was to reveal the greatest secret of all.  She asked Gabrielle who was ignoring the situation in favor of observing  the fight that was about to start in the courtyard if she was aware of Joxer’s love for her. 

     This caught Gabrielle’s attention immediately.  She did not believe this load of nonesense either although Xena had known it to be true for a long time.  Since baby bliss had gone on his wreckless rampage of love the warrior princess had been keeping Joxer’s dirty little secret.  Today it did not matter for it would keep Gabrielle busy long enough while Joxer tried to explain away Xena’s lunacy.  That would buy Xena enough time to go across town to stop all of the fights that were certain to break out.  The day wore one as all of the other todays and one the eighth morning the rooster crowed again.      

     Xena woke furious, but did not waste any time.  She dashed out of the stable to save Caska and then returned to the stable to try to convince Gabrielle that she wasn’t crazy.  Then she would order her friends to stay put until she stopped the fight in the courtyard.  As she stopped the second duel in the alley Gabrielle and Joxer had finally caught up to her for Gabrielle had noticed that there was another fight starting across the square.  As Gabrielle warned Xena in urgency about the third fight breaking out Xena responded frustrated stating the obvious.  It was a lot easier to start these fights than to end them.  Gabrielle would always believe Xena by this point in the day and she actually was quite helpful this time.  She stated that she did not understand for both houses worshipped the same gods and suffered the same hardships.  Gabrielle wished that there were time to remind the sworn enemies of their shared liknesses.  It was a brilliant idea for Xena did have all the time in the world.  She spoke her thought out loud relieved at this new idea. 

    Xena didn’t even bother to try to stop the third fight for it would happen again anyway.  She was more interested in using her time to the advantage.  As she led her friends out of the alley and back into the square Xena noticed something new.  She looked upon the ground to find a broken vile.  When she picked it up she smelled the trace contents of the bottle and determined that it was nitesbane.  It was known to be a toxic substance that could kill someone if ingested.  Xena had two new things to think about on the eighth day.  Just as she continued down the street with her friends to ponder her new clues to the largest riddle of her life Joxer again suggested that the enemy of his enemy was his friend.  The warrior princess was frustrated with this idiotic idea.  She heard it come out of his mouth every single day.  Yet Xena decided that she would not reject it this time.  If it actually worked she would be free of this trip to hades and death would most certainly be better than awakening to the sound of the rooster’s crowing. 

     Joxer could not believe that Xena was going to go along with one of his plans.  He hadn’t even finished verbalizing his thoughts, but then Joxer was excited.  The idiot declared to the warrior princess that he knew that the day would come in which both of their warrior minds would share one will and one thought.  Gabrielle’s sarcastic response was that Joxer had only half a wit which Xena agreed with.  Joxer’s hands touching her arm were not soothing her either.  It was amusing to watch how Joxer responded to being given respect.  Xena finally asked him what there was to lose in trying this.  Joxer took the command of the warrior princess and stepped out in front of the crowd in the square.  His voice belted out boisterously as he insulted the families openly.  It appeared that only Joxer would die today, but then he implicated both Xena, and the bard into the plot to become the enemy to all houses.  He was more confident standing with his friends than without them.  This was no surprise to the warrior princess although a bit unpredictable.  As he cursed their names and laughed at their ancestors he whispered under his breath looking for approval, but no one responded for even Gabrielle could see what was coming next.  Xena braced for the impact as the entire town raised its weapons and released its wrath of arrows down upon the friends.  The last thing Xena remembered was the sound of both Joxer and Gabrielle screaming in fear of their impending deaths.  Then the rooster crowed.

     Xena was irritated that she had even tried Joxer’s plan.  As he opened the door and told everyone to rise and shine she reached for her chackram and plunged it deep into his chest.  That would most certainly shut him up so she could think without his constant interruptions.  There was not fear of death or consequence for neither existed when the day would just start all over again.  The shock in Joxer’s eyes as he was gripped with surprise at his killer was an interesting thing to notate.  Xena realized that he trusted her too much.  He was more vulnerable than she had thought him to be.  It didn’t matter for he would be alive again on the ninth today.  Gabrielle was slow to rise as always as Xena laid back down closing her eyes.  The bard was also way behind in realizing that Joxer had just been murdered.  When Xena didn’t hear the bard respond with her daily remark she knew that Gabrielle was in shock.  The bard rose from slumber snapping into sudden reality.  She could not believe that the warrior princess had heartlessly plunged her chackram into Joxer’s chest.  Xena did not fret for Gabrielle could spend the day dealing with reality while Xena tried to figure out what to do in peace and quiet.

    Xena had slept the eighth day away for she wanted to stay up all night to be up early the next morning.  She needed more time and she needed to keep her friends occupied with a little less cruelty.  As soon as it was the ninth day Xena woke her friends up before sun rise and tied them both up.  Then she prepared to save Caska, and stop all the fights that she was aware of.  Xena had part of it worked out, but there were still some missing pieces.  She would spend the rest of the day seeking out more clues.  Xena had created more time, but she hadn’t explored the problem of the nitesbane.  She visited the village druggist to find out more about the nitesbane.  The druggist  said that he treated both families despite his affiliations with one of them.  Xena noted that he was extremely scatterbrained and forgetful.  The man was quite old and unreliable.  The warrior princess asked him if he had sold any nitesbane recently, but he said he would have remembered the sale of something so leathal.  Xena wasn’t so sure of this.  Then the old man shuffled through the labels he could no longer read until finally he declared that someone had stolen the vile of nitesbane for it was missing from his collection.

     Xena decided that it was a lost cause to pursue the nitesbane so she decided to do what Gabrielle had suggested.  She went to the village midwife to find out more about the family histories.  She was a sweet middle aged woman who made terrible muffins.  Xena suffered through eating them so that she could retreive valueable family history.  The most interesting part of the conversation was to find out that this midwife from the house of Likos helped to deliver babies from the house of Menos.  There was trust there, but it was very small in comparison to the hatred.  Xena thought she might be able to use this information to her advantage at some point.  The time would present itself.  Xena went to bed knowing that she could finally stop the entire family feud with her newfound knowledge.

     Day ten came, the rooster crowed, and Joxer opened the door, but Xena robbed him of his joy in saying those aweful words rise and shine.  She bolted out the door and pushed Joxer out of the way for there was a full day’s work ahead of her.  After saving Caska Xena returned to the stable with new hope as she told the story of every day since it all began.  Gabrielle did not believe that they had repeated the day eleven times, but it was the truth.  Xena could not confirm or deny it.  Then before anyone could ask any more questions or make any more suggestions Xena covered it all within less than thirty seconds.  The warrior princess then left her friends in confusion and headed for the square to stop the first battle.  Trying to prevent their deaths had become a burden and a waste of time.  There was something else that would save them.  Xena watching them constantly never could.  As the warrior princess approached the square the two men were arguing over the young Likos lady.  Xena firmly interrupted them demanding that the time to talk peace was now.  Just as the two fighting men were lowering their weapons appaulled by the stranger’s interruption two more men entered into the square crossing swords defying Xena’s request. 

     The warrior princess had no patience for their behavior.  She approached them kicking their swords away.  After disarming them instantly she grabbed both of their arms and twisted them behind their backs flipping between them with a battle cry.  Then she used Lady Likos’s valuable legends and stories to help her stop the bloodlust.  She reminded the men that their legends said that if a man killed his own brother he would be cursed forever.  The warrior princess looked to Titus and asked him if this was the fate he desired for himself.  Lynarus the very man he was about to fight to the death was also the son of Titus’s father despite having the rival house’s last name.  Lady Likos confirmed this with the astonished crowd.  Both men were shamed before the entire town to be exposed, but it had worked for they decided to retreat from their passions for blood.  Yet Xena was faced with a third set of dueling maniacs.  The Likos man declared that he was certain he did not have any Menos brothers.  He reminded the crowd that his father Caska had almost been killed by a wreckless Menos driver.  The warrior princess had all the ammunition she needed to defy his angry passions.  She scolded the man about his own wreckless behavior revealing to the crowd that Caska was deaf and could not heard the warnings that had been given to him in an attempt to save his life.  Caska’s deafness proved itself to be very truthful when he asked his son what the warrior princess had just said.  Xena was standing just a few paces in front of him. 

     Then the father of the entire house of Likos stepped out into the square to challenge Xena.  He stated firmly that he did not need the lectures of a stranger.  As he faced the warrior princess she was not intimidated by his stature and experience.  She reminded him that he had almost lost both his wife and son in childbirth once.  He was softened by this memory as he had remembered that no one thought that they would make it.  Likos credited the gods for their family’s good fortune.  Xena would not allow the gods to take credit for what Lady Menos had done for the Likos family.  It was her caring and kindness that had saved the Likos family for certain loss.  While father Likos had been away fighting wars Lady Menos had come to his home and saved his family.  Father Likos could not deny that Lady Menos was indeed a good woman.  He looked to Father Menos who accepted the gesture of thanks for his wife’s unselfish actions.  Xena reminded the two men that Lady Menos the elder had hated their family feud her entire life.  She had passed on her generous love and caring to Lady Likos who now filled the shoes of a woman who had been taken from them  within this silly family feud. 

     Father Menos agreed that maybe the strange warrior woman was right.  It was time for peace to reign and for blood and war to end.  Father Likos surrendered his bloodlust and agreed that it was indeed time for peace.  Then Father Menos looked to Xena and asked the stranger how she had known so much about them.  Xena’s answer was candid for only she understood where she had been and what she had suffered to accomplish this great victory of peace.  The warrior princess had been studying the two families for eleven days now and finally Father Likos reached out to Father Menos in a peaceful gesture and handshake.  With that the town errupted with joy as everyone embraced their new state of being.  Xena walked away from the square relieved and completely ready to move forward.  Gabrielle had given her the inspiration for this solution only three yesterdays before.  It was no surprise to her when the bard came rushing up to Xena to congratulate her on her non-violent accomplishment.  Gabrielle was excited about the fact that Xena had saved two lives, stopped three duels, and made peace between two families who had a long history of hatred for one another.  Though Xena still sensed a bit of sarcasm and lack of belief within her friend none of it mattered.  They were free of today forever.  Gabrielle suggested that they have a party to celebrate the accomplishment.  Joxer agreed without hesitation.  For the rest of the day the three friends celebrated, but then came today number eleven.

    The rooster crowed again and this time Xena went mad.  She tore the hay as she popped up out of slumber and as soon as she remembered she jumped up and dashed out the stable door to go save Caska again.  When she returned she spent the morning recounting her entire eleven day experience.  She also thought outloud trying to figure out what went wrong and what it was that she was missing.  The warrior princess knew that it was something very small.  One tiny little detail had been the chink in the armor.  Gabrielle and Joxer were unable to understand Xena’s behavior.  They were insulted that Xena would even think for a moment that she was the only one who was special enough to save everyone from the day that would never end.  No one could seem to remember that they had lived this day before.  It didn’t matter as the warrior princess dashed out of the stables leaving Gabrielle and Joxer to figure it all out for themselves. 

     Xena rushed through the town to seek out the young woman that Tybolis and Miron had been dueling over.  As soon as the warrior princess spotted her in the street she confronted her demanding the girl hand over the vile of nitesbane.  The girl surrendered the vial.  When Xena observed it she noticed that it was now empty.  Xena’s first question was when had she taken the nitesbane.  The girl did not deny it.  She explained that she had taken it just after sunrise.  This drew frustration out of Xena’s soul for the idea of having to stop the young girl just after the rooster crowed was too much.  It was this young wreckless girl who was causing all of Xena’s trouble.  The warrior princess was at her wit’s end.  As the warrior princess wracked her mind with these thoughts the young girl ran away upset by Xena’s accusation.  Just then Miron stepped out of the alley near the stables declaring that it was not the young girl.  All of the repeating days were being caused by him.  He went onto explain that there was nothing that Xena could do to stop the day from repeating.  This idea was insane to the warrior princess as she continued listening to Miron’s explanation.  He explained that because the young girl’s house was at the north end of town and the stables were at the south end there would be no time for Xena to reach her before she took the nitesbane every morning.  Xena expressed her understanding of Miron finishing his sentence as she thought outloud. 

     Xena watched as the young girl disappeared into the distance while she thought about the unappealing idea of defeat.  If the day repeated itself forever then Xena would never die.  She could not take the thought of being imprisioned within the same day forever.  It was a worse fate than Tarturus.  There was one comfort.  At least Miron was living within this hell with her for only people who could remember the day would know the details that Xena knew.  Since the two of them had all of the time in the world to discuss and share their personal Tarturus together they sat down to discuss the problem.  Two heads would most certainly be better than one.  The warrior princess wanted to know why Miron’s lover had decided to take the poison.  Miron responded by explaining the one detail of the family saga that Xena had not known before.  Because she was a Likos her father was forcing her to marry a Likos man for he hated the Menos family.  Miron was a Menos.  Xena was saddened by the extent of the family fued.  It had taken such a toll on the townspeople that the young women were killing themselves to be free of the madness. 

      Miron continued explaining that he had come up with a solution to their problem.  He was going to suggest that the lovers go off to another town or village and elope together so that no one could prevent their love, but when he had told her about his plan that morning she began to sob.  Xena realized that she had already taken the nitesbane.  Miron himself had been too late to stop her from committing her own death.  He stated that when the day was over he had decided that he could not live life without his love.  She would be dead by the next morning.  Miron continued his story saying that he had prayed to Cupid for help.  Cupid had told Miron that Hermia his love must die tomorrow, but since Miron’s love for her was true Cupid had given Miron one wish.  Now all of the pieces of the puzzle came together for the warrior princess.  Her heart was sour with defeat for she realized that his wish had been that tomorrow would never come.  Miron smiled delighted that the warrior princess guessed his wish.  He continued explaining that Cupid had indeed granted his wish and said that the day would repeat until the day a hero would come to fix everything.  The hero would save Hermia, Miron, and end the pointless family feud. 

      Xena immediately responded with irritation that Miron had not asked for her help sooner.  It must have been obvious that she was the hero for she had spent every single today butting into the family feud.  That was no secret to anyone in the town including the rest of the world who never experienced the repeating day.  He responded a little embarresed and apologetic at the same time.  Miron had expected Hercules or Sinbad to arrive.  He had never dreamed that it would be a warrior princess.  Miron finished his statement explaining that the other reason for not asking for Xena’s help was because Cupid had said that Miron could not interfere in any way.  Xena could not believe this.  Her objective was to save Caska, stop the feud, and keep Hermia from taking the nitesbane just after sunrise.  Gabrielle had been wrong.  Xena did not have enough time.  Miron restated that no matter how fast Xena ran she would never make it to the north side of town in time to save Hermia.  That was the impossible task for only a hero could accomplish it.  Xena took this as a challenge.  She would not be defeated by the impossible.  Xena spent the rest of the day trying to devise a plan.  By the end she had returned to the stables to turn in for some rest.  As she took of her armor and laid down to rest she told her friends that today would be a busy day tomorrow.  For Joxer and Gabrielle who had not moved from their positions in the stable all day Xena’s joke meant nothing to them.  They were just certain that she was insane.  If tomorrow did actually come they might just leave Xena behind for fear that she was too crazy for them.

     On today for the twelvth time the rooster crowed again.  Xena jumped up ready for action bowling through Joxer and straight for the south end of town.  Today she would not bother with Caska for if she could save Hermia in time the day might actually end.  Although Xena had run at top speed she still did not make it to Hermia in time.  Xena had arrived at Hermia’s house just in time to see Hermia drink the poison.  Frustrated Xena flipped down into the courtyard startling Hermia who ran from the warrior princes in fear.  Obviously Hermia could not remember any of the previous days either.  There was only one solution left and not saving Caska had made the rest of the day more difficult.  The town errupted into an all out house war as every man an woman fought each other with deep running hatred of one another.  It did not matter to the warrior princess.  At least it kept everyone busy and out of her way while she measured the route that he chackram might take.  Only Gabrielle seemed to be bothered by all of the blood and gore.  She interrupted the warrior princess in a frenzy demanding that Xena stop the fight.  Xena ignored Gabrielle’s request knowing that there would be another chance tomorrow.  Stopping the fight alone would not work.  Xena had tried that and failed.  Gabrielle was persistant as usual.  She was about to interject into Xena’s deep concentration.  Xena responded by telling the bard that she was busy and asked her to go play with Joxer.  It was a minor joke, but it was fun for the warrior princess to push Gabrielle into Joxer’s chest.  It just added to the mystery of Xena’s actions.  That would most certainly keep the bard busy today. 

     As Xena measured she could still hear the sounds of the battle and she decided to follow Gabrielle’s movements.  She noticed that her friend was really blossoming into a talented fighter.  Gabrielle was holding her own quite well down in the pit of despair as Xena continued her work for the mighty chackram.  Xena decided as she watched the bard fight a man with a mase that she really could use Gabrielle’s staff to help her with some measurements that her sword could not accommodate.  Xena jumped down into the battle and grabbed Gabrielle’s staff in the middle of a heated battle.  If she died it did not matter for she would be alive again in the morning.  Then Xena had to removed a couple of men from the town square because they were in the way of her measurement.  She used the bard’s staff to disarm them and knock them out of the way.  As Xena measured the distance between the middle of the square and the highest point of the village she heard Gabrielle beg her to bring back her staff.  Just as she finished her measurement she realized that she had finally found the solution that would most certainly remove her from this neverending day. 

     Xena was so relieved and exasperated she wanted to share this insight with her friend.  Just as Xena shouted out across the square she looked up to notice Gabrielle was about to be clobbered by the guy with the mase.  Gabrielle had done well without the staff, but she gave Xena a certain glance that reminded Xena that she was being a little rude holding things up this way.  She tossed Gabrielle’s staff back to her across the square and apologized for keeping it so long.  Xena watched as her friend instantly caught her staff and turned to defeat the enemy approaching from behind.  She had used a powerful driving move low to rob him of his feet.  He slammed hard onto the ground.  Xena was impressed with how skilled her friend had become with the staff.  It was indeed the perfect weapon for her.  Xena praised her friend delighted and then went back to measuring for the chackram.  Moments later the fierce battle had come to an end for there was no one left standing except for Xena, and Gabrielle who was in shock at the scene of death that lied before her.  Xena had to spend the rest of the day comforting her friend and trying to convince her that no one would be dead in the morning. 

     Finally on the thirteenth day the rooster crowed, but Xena was already prepared.  She was on her feet as soon as she heard the sounds of Joxer’s footsteps approaching outside.  He had been whistling every morning and tossing his eggs up into the air on his way to the stable.  This bought Xena a few extra needed moments to accomplish the impossible.  Xena slammed open the door knocking Joxer onto the ground.  She wished him good morning as she lined up for the throw of her life.  As she released her chackram she hoped that it would be able to follow its path first to remove Caska’s hat so that he would stop to pick it up therefore miss getting hit by the Menos cart.  Then it would travel onto its final destination while Xena ran as fast as she could to the other end of town to catch it.  When Xena reached the north end of town she flipped down into Hermia’s courtyard to capture her chackram.  As soon as it had come to rest within her hand she looked up to notice that Miron was embracing Hermia and that the vile of nitesbane was broken on the floor.  Her chackram had been successful.  Xena had accomplished the impossible.  When Miron finally noticed the presence of his hero he asked her if it was possible for her to stop the family feud.  That was the easy part for the warrior princess and with that request she dashed off to the town square to remind the two families of their similarities. 

     It was the same on the thirteenth day as it had been on the tenth day according to Xena.  She interjected into the middle of the feud and demanded peace between both houses.  Impressed by her knowledge of their histories the families finally came to an agreement that there would be peace as both Father Likos, and Father Menos shook hands.  The townspeople errupted into joy and love as the warrior princess smiled brighter than the bard had ever seen before.  She approached Hermia and Miron who were delighted for Miron could now ask Hermia’s father for her hand in marriage.  They would not have to elope.  The bard did not understand it all, but it didn’t matter for it seemed that there was love and peace everywhere and Gabrielle could live with that idea no matter how insane, crazy, or nutty the warrior princess appeared to be.  The bard agreed with Miron as she gave a gesture of congratulations to the bride to be.  Miron then looked to the warrior princess and thanked her for she had accomplished the impossible.  Everyone would be able to look forward to tomorrow for today would finally be able to end.  Then Miron looked into Hermia’s eyes with a deep and true love as he leaned in to kiss her softly.  It was a beautiful moment to witness.  Although Joxer quickly ruined it with his large bulbous head as he leaned into Gabrielle as if he wanted her to kiss him.  Gabrielle looked to Xena with disgust for it was baby bliss who had allowed Joxer the false hope of love.  Xena responded by rolling her eyes as if she wanted to laugh at the bard’s puppy love. 

     As two weeks had passed the warrior princess awoke to the sound of the rooster’s crow.  Then the stable door opened as the sunlight shun in upon the warrior princess who was annoyed by the bright light.  Joxer appeared stating his familiar phrase to rise and to shine.  Xena was worried for it appeared that things were repeating yet again.  Gabrielle awakened with the same rebuttal as on every other previous day.  Joxer declared that he had found their breakfast.  Turnips were on the menu for tomorrow.  This was the first time something seemed different.  The warrior princess wasn’t sure for it had been several days since she had listened to the entire run through of events within the stable.  She had to get up and check Joxer’s hat to be sure that he had brought turnips.  When she reached into the hat there they were the most beautiful vegetables in the world. 

     Gabrielle watched Xena’s strange behavior as she wrapped her arm around Joxer’s neck holding the turnips and kissed him with joy.  Xena was acting strange for she never kissed anyone.  Gabrielle decided to ask the warrior princess if she were okay, but then she decided that there was something that she was missing about all of this.  The bard demanded to know what was going on.  Xena’s response was a simple one.  She grabbed the bard dragging her into a large joyous embrace exhuberant about life for it was finally happening again.  Gabrielle was surprised for Xena seemed to be burdened by it most of the time.  The warrior princess was like a young woman who was experiencing her life for the first time.  It was odd, but it was a pleasant surprise.  For once Xena was smiling and happy and peaceful.  Xena started ranting in philisophical terms telling the bard that she had to sieze the day for tomorrow might never come.  Gabrielle thought of this for a moment.  It made sense and it was a beautiful philosphy to live by, but it was definitely not vintage Xena.   Just then a large hammer dropped out of the sky and onto Joxer’s head knoking him out cold.  It was the funniest thing Gabrielle had ever seen.  Xena seemed to agree as the two friends laughed outloud together.  The bard’s heart quivered with happiness for Xena was experiencing love and joy at last.

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

A Comedy of Eros

Scroll #42

By Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#41:  For Him the Bell Tolls

April, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joxer the Mighty

Roams through the countryside

He never needs a place to hide

With Gabby as his sidekick

Fighting with her little stick

Righting wrongs and singing songs

Being mighty all day long

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty…

Joxer the Mighty

He’s very tidy

Everyone admires him

He’s so handsome its a sin

When things get grim

He’ll take it on the chin

If you’re in jeapordy

Caused by the enemy

Don’t call the calvary

There’s a better remedy

Although he doesn’t work for free

He’s every man’s trustee

He’s every woman’s fantasy

Plus he’s good company

Lookout, golly gee

He’s Joxer, Joxer the Mighty,

Joxer, Joxer the Mighty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

Scroll # 40:  The Execution

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

April, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Xena Scrolls

By:  Gabrielle Bard of Potedia

Scroll#39:  Blind Faith

March, 47 B.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Gabrielle could remember nothing more.

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

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

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

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

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

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